“The Scarlet Web” part Four


Over his coffee mug Sam asked, “So, you want to tell me what’s going on?”

Sam and Scarlet had driven for three straight hours before finally pulling off for a gas and bathroom break. Back on the interstate, they drove for a further two hours when Sam took an exit for a local highway. Scarlet said little during the trip. She slept in the seat some and gazed out the window. North of the city there had been farmland dotted by small towns along the highway. Soon the landscape changed. More trees and less farms and towns. For the last hour on the interstate there was nothing but Pine trees. Scarlet had never seen country like this. She was a city girl who had no desire to leave it. They drove another hour on the state highway before turning off on a gravel road. It wasn’t kept up the best and Sam’s car bottomed out a few times on the ruts. Slowing down, Sam turned onto a one track road, defiantly worse than the gravel road had been. This road led, after a quarter mile to a small cabin in the woods, overlooking a lake. Scarlet’s breath caught.

“This is beautiful,” she said.

“I don’t get here as often as I need to. But it’s here when I do. A good place to hide.”

“That’s what we’re doing, isn’t it? Hiding.”

“Yeah,” said Sam. “We’re hiding. C’mon, I’ll show you around.” Now, sitting in the comfortable cabin, Sam thought it was time he found out what was going on.

Scarlet, wrapped in a blanket and with her own coffee, sighed deeply. Six hours North of the city the air was crisp and cool. “I don’t know where to start.” she said. “Okay. First of all, ‘Lee’ is not my real last name. It’s a name I took for myself when I started working in radio. Sounded better than my real name, and my brother thought it would be wise not to use our real name anyway.” That statement raised about a thousand questions in Sam’s mind, but he kept them to himself. “You see my brother, is, well, to put it plainly, he’s a criminal. He started out doing petty stuff like robbery and grifting. He kept getting better at it and started doing riskier stuff. I’ve always loved him and I’ve tried to get him to give it up but he said it was so lucrative that he couldn’t possibly make that kind of money going straight. And he never got caught. That’s what’s so crazy about him. He’s never been caught for the probably thousands of crimes he’s committed. Anyway, we haven’t talked in probably a year or more. I don’t know what he’s into now, but these suits with the fancy car, they want to find him. That’s why they came to me. I guess they found out he has a sister and figured the best way to flush him out is through me.”

“So they smashed your door in and kidnapped you? Why did they let you come back to your apartment? When I was there.”

“They said they didn’t want to draw attention with keeping me hostage. They wanted people to see me. They didn’t count on you being there but you were. They were watching me the whole time. They had a lot of questions about you. By now they probably know more about you than you do. Are you sure they won’t find this place?”

“The property is owned by a corporation I set up that has no connection with my name or business. I tried to trace it after I bought it. The computer trail keeps running in circles back to the corporation. There’s no connection to me.”

“That was smart considering the company you keep,” Scarlet said.

“So your brother must be into something heavy with these people and they can’t find him. Can you find him?”

“Well, maybe,” Scarlet said. “He lives off the grid, nothing connected to him, kind of like you with this cabin. But I have an email address he set up for me. If I need to get in touch, I can email him. I’ve never used it so I don’t know if it’ll work. I don’t suppose you have internet here?”

“No, I don’t.”

“The suits took my smart phone from me so that’s out.”

“Too easy to trace. You wouldn’t want to use it if you had it. I’ve got an idea. About an hour North of here is the Canadian boarder. We can drive up there tomorrow, find an internet cafe or whatever you call those places, and send your email. We can get some clothes while were waiting. You have your I.D.?”

“Yeah I do, and my passport. They went through everything I had on me but gave it all back. I guess they didn’t think any of it was important. Except my phone. That they kept.”

Sam stood and stretched. He loaded some wood into the fireplace and lit a fire. They had picked up some sandwiches and beer when they stopped for gas, and ate those in front of the fire. At dusk, Sam took Scarlet down to the lake. “I’ve fished here a couple times,” he said.

“You, fishing?” Scarlet asked.

“I haven’t always been a private eye you know. I did have a childhood.”

“Ha! I can’t imagine you as a kid,” Scarlet laughed. “You’re always so stoic and serious. What kind of a kid were you anyway?”

“Being a detective and witnessing the kind of world that I work in, has a tendency to sober you up. I was just a regular kid. Rode my bike, went fishing, you know, kid stuff.”

Scarlet laughed again. “Wow. You were a kid!”

They sat in silence for a while, watching the sun go down. Finally, Sam asked, “What is your real last name?”

“It’s McCree. It’s Scottish.”

The stars came out and Scarlet marveled at the clarity of the night sky and the thousands of stars they could see. Too early for mosquitoes, they stayed out late. Back in the cabin, Sam pulled out some musty smelling blankets. “These will have to do,” he said. “You can take the bedroom. I’ll have the couch.”

A little while later Sam heard the bedroom floor creak and Scarlet opened the door. “Sam?” she asked.

“Yes?” Sam said.

“Will you come here?”

“Sure,” said Sam, as he got up.

At the bedroom door Scarlet asked, “Will you come lay down by me? I don’t want to be alone in here.”

They both climbed into bed, leaving the door open for warmth from the fire, and had the best night sleep either of them could remember in a long while.

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The Scarlet Web part Three


Sam drove to the Motor Vehicles office. He had a friend who worked there who sometimes did him favors. “Well Hi Sam, it’s been awhile.”

“Hi Lois,” Sam said. “How’ve you been?”

“Fine. You?”

“Good. Say I wonder if you could do me a favor?”

“That’s pretty much why you come to me, isn’t it?”

“You’ve got a point Lois. I’m looking for a car.”

“We don’t sell cars here Sam. We only license them. You’ll have to locate a dealer,” Lois said sarcastically.

“Right,” Sam said. “Look, this is important. I’m looking for the owner of a gray Bentley.” Andy had given him the color.

“There are a lot of cars in this city Sam. And you know I could get in trouble for this.”

“I know. I’ll make it worth your while. A Bentley is a British car so I’m thinking their might not be a lot of them around.”

“I know the Bentley is British Sam, I work in Motor Vehicles. Let me see what I can find.” Sam waited while she worked her magic on the computer. “Well you’re in luck. There’s only three of them in the city. Let me print this for you.” The printer clicked out a piece of paper. “Names and addresses,” she said. Sam took the paper and stretched out his hand to shake hers. He slipped her a twenty. “Ooo,” she said. “Now I can retire.”

“Best I can do, Lois. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome, Sam. Be careful.”

“Always,” he said. Which was a lie.

Sam checked out the cars. The first one sat in a driveway partially covered by a tarp. He could see from the street that one side was covered in rust. Couldn’t be the one as Andy had told him the car he was looking for was in perfect shape. The next one was also in a driveway and an elderly couple was just getting out of it with groceries. And it was Blue. The last one he found, was registered to a rental agency. Morrison Luxury Car Rentals. Sam parked and went inside. He asked if he could use the bathroom. The man behind the counter gave Sam a look of disdain and pointed the way. When he came back he asked the man about their rentals.

“We have the most beautiful cars in town,” he said.

“I’m looking for one in particular. I’d like to rent a Bentley. A gray one.”

“We do have one. A limo, in fact, but I’m sorry to say that it’s rented out right now,” the man said.

“I don’t suppose you could tell me who you rented it to? I really need one and maybe I could convince your renter to let me have it.”

Sam noticed the rental book was sitting on the desk in front of the man. Before he could object Sam said, “Oh, by the way. When I was in the bathroom just now I noticed the toilet was leaking.” The man turned his head and saw water running out under the door.

“Oh crap,” he exclaimed as he ran for the bathroom.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Sam said, as he flipped the rental book around. He found the Bentley on the second page, quickly wrote down the information and turned the book back. He left the store before the man could get back from the bathroom. Sam had plugged the toilet up so badly that it would take him quite a while to unstop it.

The address that the rented Bentley was registered to was a hotel. Sam drove through the parking lots but didn’t find the car. Finally, he pulled into an empty spot and sat, thinking. What could Scarlet be into, he thought? He didn’t feel she was a deceiving kind of person as she had always been honest with him. Even when her honesty stung a little. And again, could he be wrong about this whole thing? Scarlet was certainly strong enough to kick in a simple door if she needed to, and who knows, maybe she was dating some rich guy who had a driver and other people working for him. If she was, she didn’t owe Sam and explanation. They were friends, nothing more. Even though he had wanted more, it just hadn’t worked. Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache coming on. The day had been cloudy and gray and now it started to drizzle rain. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam saw a car approaching. It was the gray Bentley. It pulled in under the carport of the hotel as Sam got out of his car. He had no idea what if anything, he would do. A man got out of the back passenger door and behind him was Scarlet. The man grabbed her arm roughly and pulled her from the car. She tried to push his hand away and he grabbed her with both hands and moved her toward the hotel door. At that moment Sam appeared from behind the Bentley. Moving swiftly to Scarlet, Sam reached for a finger of the hand of the man holding her and bent it severely backward. The man let out a yell on let go as Sam shouldered him out of the way. Pulling out his massive 357 Magnum, Sam grabbed Scarlet around the neck and pulled her away, pointing the gun at her head.

“Alright, everyone just take a deep breath,” he said. “She’s coming with me.” Another man got out of the car and pulled out a pistol, pointing it at Sam. “Uh, uh,” Sam said. “I’ll blow her head all over your expensive suit, pal.” Sam pulled the hammer back on his pistol.

“Look,” the guy with the gun said. “Let’s talk about this. How about we all go inside and sort this out. I’m sure we can come to an agreement.”

“Not happening,” Sam said, and started backing away from them. The guy with the now, broken finger pulled out his own pistol as Sam and Scarlet headed for Sam’s car.

“Don’t,” the first guy said. “Don’t shoot him. We’ll find them. To Sam he yelled, “You’re dead buddy! I don’t care what it takes, we’ll find you!”

Sam stuffed Scarlet into his car and went around to the drivers door. Inside he started the car, shifted into reverse and backed out of the parking lot and onto the street. Shifting into first gear he burned the tires all the way down the street. Shifting into third and then fourth gear he checked his mirrors. They weren’t following.

“Dammit, Sam! What do you think you’re doing?!” Scarlet yelled.

Not looking at her, Sam said, “Maybe you hadn’t noticed but I was saving your ass.”

She pounded her fists on the dash. “Goddammit Sam! You shouldn’t be involved! You don’t know what these guys are capable of. If they catch us, they’ll kill you! Don’t you get it?

As calmly as he could, Sam said, “Don’t you think I’ve faced situations like this before? This is what I do, Scarlet. I put myself in danger nearly every day, doing what I do. If anyone can handle this, it’s me.”

Scarlet sat fuming. She realized he was right, but that didn’t make her any happier. Sam took a series of turns, went down some alleys and finally headed up a ramp to the freeway. No one was following. “There’s no where we can go Sam, that they won’t find us. They’ve got plenty of connections.”

“I’ve got a place in mind,” Sam said. “Don’t worry, they won’t find us.” Sam steered the car into the left lane and hit the gas. They were doing 85 as they headed North, out of the city.

The Tarot Card Mystery part Six


Sam had a hard time letting things go. He didn’t like loose ends, and he didn’t like not solving a case. He had gotten his car out of impound with a promise to John Amos the police captain, that he would explain everything. Then he drove to Madame DuPree’s shop. It was closed. A note at the front door let customers know it would remain closed until further notice. The back door was locked. He drove the streets looking for Christi. Considering that she stole his money, he didn’t expect to find her. So he wound up back at the police station and told the captain everything that happened. He had no explanation of how the Tarot card Madame DuPree had given him changed from Death, to the Hermit. The card had been in his back seat since he rescued Christi from the abandoned ship. He also had no idea how he was poisoned. The only thing he could think of there, was that Madame DuPree could have had poison on her fingernails when she attacked him. After giving his statement, Captain Amos told Sam to go home. They would launch an official investigation and Sam was to consider himself, off the case. Before he went back to his office, Sam found another metaphysical store on the other side of town and bought a deck of Tarot cards and a book explaining them. He didn’t go for this kind of thing, but he thought maybe if he understood it, it might help him figure this out.

So he sat at his desk puffing his pipe, with the cards spread out in front of him and read the book. He read about the Major and Minor Arcana. He read about the meaning of the cards and what people used them for. He was just about to take a break when he saw something out of the corner of his eye. There was a white envelope halfway under his office door. Grabbing his 44 he quietly stood and moved to the door. Throwing it open quickly and dashing into the hall, he found no one there. Checking either end of the hall revealed no one either. Back in his office he cut open the envelope and with a tweezers, removed the only thing there, Another Tarot card. This one was the Moon.

Well, one thing was for sure, Sam thought. This case was getting weirder all the time. He had no idea what this meant but he had a Tarot book now so he looked up the card. The book told him the card meant that it was a time of uncertainty. It could also mean confusion or misunderstanding. Who would leave this? The Tarot had been Madame DuPree’s thing, but would it have been her? He didn’t think she would have climbed the stairs to his office and then he remembered how agile she had been jumping on his back during the attack. Maybe it was her. Or Michael. He had no idea, and no idea how to find out. This was one of the most frustrating cases he’d ever had. Sam knew he should just let it go. Mostly because he knew he would never get paid for his time. The old crone had hired him to find her niece but since that had all blown up, well, there’d be no money. Looking at the Tarot cards and admiring the artwork he thought, maybe I’ll try to read them. Why not? I’ve done a lot of crazier things, he thought. So he shuffled the deck and laid out three cards.

The book told him that a three card reading was common. The cards could represent the past, present and future. They could also mean the present, hindrances and help. The question he would ask was; How can I solve this case? He felt a little foolish doing this, as it was way outside what he believed in. Sam believed in what he could see and touch. This metaphysical mumbo jumbo held no interest for him. Usually. But now, because of the strange things that had happened, he wasn’t so sure. Couldn’t hurt to give it a try, he thought. So keeping the question in mind, as the book told him to do, he flipped over the cards. The first card was the Moon. The same one from the envelope. The second card was the Tower, and the third was the nine of cups. He had already discovered that the Moon card represented confusion, misunderstanding or uncertainty. That one he understood. there was plenty of all of that here. He found it interesting that that card came up in the first position. It fit. The next card, the Tower, stood for chaos, change, disruption, and destruction. Destruction he didn’t like. It could be his destruction. The card could also mean liberation. This was getting more interesting. The last card, the nine of Cups was harder to figure out. The book said it was a good card that meant that all is well. Fulfilled desires, well being and good health. He liked that but it wasn’t helping him figure out what to do. Sam wondered about the cups on the card. He dug through the book and found that the four suits, Swords, Cups, Wands and Coins were akin to the four suits in playing cards. And they had meanings. The four suits were associated with the four ancient elements of Air, Water, Fire and Earth. Cups, were associated with water. But how could that help him, he thought? And then it came to him. This whole thing had started on the water. In an old ship in the harbor. Maybe it would end there too. Dropping the book, Sam stood and grabbed his 44. He filled his coat pocket with bullets and just for luck, he put the Nine of Cups card in his shirt pocket. Couldn’t hurt, he thought.

The Tarot Card Mystery part Five


When he woke, colors and shapes swam before Sam’s eyes with the sickening feeling of being tied to the deck of a wind tossed ship. Someone was in the room with him, wherever he was. A hand touched his face and something touched his lips. A voice said, “Don’t be afraid mon, drink this.” He drank. Sam wouldn’t have been able to resist if he’d wanted to. Dark hair and brown skin filled his blurry vision as he slowly faded back to sleep.

When he next came to, Sam found himself in a hospital room. He felt exhausted but surprisingly good. The horrible feeling was gone. Sitting up on the side of the bed produced a small wave of nausea but it quickly passed. Where are my clothes, he thought, as he looked around the room. Standing, Sam moved uneasily toward the small closet in the corner. Inside, his clothes were hung up but his pistol was not in his coat pocket. Why do I keep losing my guns, he thought. After getting dressed Sam peeked his head out the door. No one there. Slipping out, he headed down the hallway looking for an exit. A nurse yelled from the other end of the hallway. “Hey, where do you think you’re going?” “Sorry,” Sam said, and slipped down another hallway. An exit sign at the end caught his attention and he quickly made his way to it, and out the door.

By the position of the sun it looked like it was mid-day. The hospital was downtown so Sam hailed a cab and caught a ride to his office. Someone had been there, swept up the glass and placed a board over hole in the door where the latest window had been. Turning the knob, he found the door unlocked. Sam pushed it open and waited. Nothing. Looking in he found the office empty. Stepping inside he closed and locked the door. That’s when he heard the noise.

The bathroom door pushed open and Christi came into the room. “Awe ya gave me a fright mon!” Christi said, holding her hand to her heart.
“I see you feelin’ better. Dots good mon. I was afraid you weren’t gonna make it. Dat crazy ole witch cook up some powerful potions ya know?”

Sam just stared at her in disbelief. Grabbing the bottle of Jameson off the desk he poured himself a drink into a dirty glass. Knocking it back quickly produced a small jolt to his stomach which passed just as fast. He poured another.

“Hey, slow down mon.” Christi said, taking the glass from his hand. “You gonna do yourself in.”

“Right about now, I don’t give a damn,” said Sam. “You mind telling me what the hell happened?”

“Well I’m not sure,” Christi said, in her heavy Jamaican accent. “Seems de old hag slipped you a mickey, as dey say. I found you in de hospital and gave you somethin’ to help. What’s all deese scratches on your neck?” she asked, reaching toward Sam.

Sam backed up a half step. “That’s from your Auntie attacking me after her and her gorilla kidnapped me. Look, I don’t know what the hell’s going on here but I’m real sorry I took this case. I’ve been kidnapped, and beat up, I lost two good pistols and some skin and blood and what looks to be about a day or so I can’t account for.” I need some goddamn answers from somebody and since you’re the one who’s here, maybe you better start talking!”

“Two days.”

“What?”

“You were in da hospital for two days, mon.”

“Great!”

“Here’s what I can tell you, mon,” said Christi as she sat down on Sam’s cot. “My Auntie is not what she seems. She got people workin’ for her sellin’ drugs. Mostly in the ghetto’s and poor neighborhoods. She a big deal, mon. She got dat Micheal doin’ her dirty work for her, arrangin’ everything. Da guys who kidnapped me, see, you ain’t de only one with troubles mon,” Christ gestured toward Sam. “Dey work for da rival gang. Dey want da ole lady out. But Micheal keeps her safe. So dey kidnap me to try an’ get to her. But den you come along and save me!”

Christi stood and wrapped her arms around herself. Her eyes began to tear up. “An’ I jus’ wanna go home. Home to Jamaica, mon. My Da, he die of the cancer. He say I’d have a better life in America. But he didn’t know dat de ole hag sell drugs. He didn’t know so, I can’t blame him, ya know? I can’t. But I have people in Jamaica. Dey will help me. I know. I jus’ have to get back dere.” She sat back down on the cot.

Sam sighed a long, deep sigh. Moving to his wall safe, he opened it. He pulled out a 44 magnum revolver, two boxes of bullets and a stack of cash. Closing the safe, he turned to Christi. “Alright. If you want to go back to Jamaica, I’ll help you do that. Here,” he said, pushing a note pad and pen across the desk. write down your clothes sizes. I’ll get you some things while you stay here and clean up. Then I’ll take you straight to the airport and put you on a plane. Alright?”

“Oh thank you Sam!” Christi exclaimed, rushing over and throwing her arms around him.

“I’ll be back in a little while. I’m locking the door, said Sam.

Sam caught a cab to a local department store since he didn’t know where his car was, and bought Christi some things he thought she would like. Bright colors to cheer her mood. Later, he’d have to speak to the police captain to clear some of this up and get his car back. Another cab took him back to his office.

The first thing Sam noticed is that his office door wasn’t closed all the way. He set his packages on the floor in the hallway and pulled out his 44. Pushing the door open quickly and stepping inside reveled two thing. His wall safe was open, and the rest of his cash, and Christi were gone.

The Tarot Card Mystery part Four


I started writing this story back in 2016. I wrote three parts and then life was interrupted by my wife’s illness. The story is a mystery involving my favorite detective, Sam Barton. Here are links to episodes one, two, and three. I’m now in the frame of mind to continue with the story. It’s been sitting, patiently waiting to be told. So here’s part four!

“She says you tried to rob her, Sam!” the police captain yelled. He had been doing this for about half an hour. Sam was driving around in his car trying to figure out what to do about this case when a squad car pulled him over. The police had went to Madame DuPree’s shop after Sam’s call and found the old woman tied up on the floor where he had left her. Taking her to the station, she claimed that Sam had come to the shop and tried to rob her. She said that she had never seen him before.

Pounding his hand on the Captain’s desk, Sam shouted back, “You can’t be serious! You know me Captain! You know who I am. You know I’d never do something like that. She hired me to find her niece. When I found more than she’d wanted, she had her gorilla knock me out and lock me in a storeroom. Look! She gave me this card.” Reaching into his pocket, Sam retrieved the Tarot card Madame DuPree gave him. Christi had tossed it into the back seat of his car after he rescued her and for reasons he couldn’t understand, he grabbed it and put it back into his pocket before the cops stopped him. “Why do you think I’d have something like this, Captain? Where do you think I’d get a Tarot card, if not from her?” Sam flipped the card over to show the Captain the face side, which had been the Death card except now it wasn’t. “What the hell…?” Sam said. “This, this isn’t the right card.”

“That doesn’t prove anything,” the captain said. “You’re not that stupid Sam, and neither am I. Having a playing card in your hand doesn’t mean squat! Now I know you didn’t try to rob her but your explanation isn’t all that convincing. So why don’t we…Sam? Sam!

“Sam looked up from the card and said, “This isn’t the right card. She gave me the Death card, but this isn’t it.” The card Sam was holding was the Hermit card. It showed an old man standing alone on a mountain top holding a lantern in his out stretched hand. “There’s something wrong here Captain…”

“You bet yer ass there is,” the Captain interrupted.

“She only gave me one card, Captain. It was the Death card. This isn’t it. How, how could that happen?

Sam’s vision started to blur. He dropped the Hermit card on the desk and rubbed his eyes. He started feeling nauseous and dizzy. Looking at the Capatin and back at the Hermit card he saw the figure of the Hermit turn it’s head toward him. Sam thought he must be going crazy as the figure began to grow larger in his vision. The Hermit lifted his lantern to illuminate Sam’s face and said, “You’re alone. You’re all alone, with no one to help you! Death will come to you in it’s time but for now, You’re all alone.” Sam fell forward out of his chair, and remembered nothing more.

Angels And Demons

video-game-controller

“Alright kids,” their grandfather said. “Gather ‘round. Time for a bedtime story.” The children came running and plopped themselves down at the old man’s feet. Grandpa’s stories were the best.

“Not too long now,” their mom said. “It’s getting late.”

“Aww mom,” the kids cried. Grandpa smiled at them and winked. They all smiled back.

“This is a story about a boy named Bobby,” Grandpa began. “Bobby liked video games. Probably you kids like them too. So listen carefully to what happened to him.” And then Grandpa told the tale…

Bobby’s character was killed again. “Darn it,” he exclaimed, tossing the controller onto the bed beside him. “I just can’t get past this demon.” He had been trying all evening to evade or kill the demon in the game, but to no avail. The White Sword, his best weapon was just not powerful enough. The demon beat him every time.

From down the hall Bobby’s mom called, “Bobby, time for bed.”

“Alright mom,” he called back. After shutting off the game machine Bobby dressed for bed. He went to the bathroom to brush his teeth and then went out to the living room to find his mom.

“Did you remember to study for the test at school tomorrow?” she asked.

“Um, yeah, sure did,” Booby replied.

“Um hmm,” his mom said, watching his face. “I just bet you did.”

“Aww c’mon mom, I’ll be fine.” Bobby leaned over to kiss his mom’s cheek.

“Get some sleep, kiddo. Maybe you can study before school.”

“Alright mom, g’night.”

“Goodnight, Bobby,” his mom said.

Bobby went to bed. Pulling up his covers he reached over and shut off the lamp. Light from the street light streamed into his room, making stark black and white shadows on the wall. Bobby closed his eyes and imagined fighting the demon. Flashing the White Sword this way and that, he imagined what it would be like to finally kill the thing. He’d gain lots of power, he thought. And maybe more weapons. How cool would that be? Slowly, Bobby drifted off to sleep.

Bobby woke sometime in the night. He woke up because he heard his chair scrapping across the floor. He opened his eyes and there, standing with its hand on the back of the chair was the demon from his game! Bobby had kicked off his covers in his sleep. Quickly grabbing them he pulled them up around his chin. The demon sat down. A low growling sound came from its throat and Bobby could see reddish fire coursing through the veins that stood out on its arms. It had long curved horns coming out of its forehead and teeth, pointed and probably razor sharp gleamed in the street light from the window. Bobby started to shake.

Suddenly a glow began to form in the air at the foot of his bed and continued to brighten. As the glow got brighter yet, it took the shape of a man. Bobby could see wings, long and feathery, on the man’s back. It was an angel! The angel moved around to the opposite side of the bed from the demon and sat down, even though there wasn’t a chair there. “You’re Late!” said the demon.

“Yes well,” the angel replied casually, “Lot’s to do you know. Lot’s to do.” he looked at Bobby and smiled. Bobby looked back with wide eyes, not knowing what to think. He pinched himself. It is said that you can tell if you’re dreaming by pinching yourself. If you don’t feel it, it’s a dream. Bobby felt it.

“Well let’s get on with this. You’re not the only one with things to do,” the demon said, crossly.

“I know what you’re going to say,” the angel began, but was interrupted by the demon.

“He’s mine. You heard him, he lied to his mother. Didn’t even say he was sorry.”

“Well you’re right of course. He did lie. But Bobby’s a good boy. He didn’t argue with his mom about going to bed. He brushed his teeth, gave his mom a kiss and all but promised to study for his test in the morning”

“All but,” the demon replied. “And this isn’t the first time he’s lied. You know that.”

At this point Bobby got up a little courage. He said, “What are you guys doing in my room? What is….?”

The demon’s hand came up quickly and he pointed a smoking finger in Bobby’s face. “Stay out of this boy,” he snarled. “This is between me and him.” Bobby sunk back under the covers. The demon began to stand up. “So that’s it then,” he said to the angel. “I’ll be taking him.”

“Not so fast,” said the angel. The demon growled loudly and sat back down. “Remember back in, oh what was it now, 1738 I think. The boy who chopped down his father’s cherry tree? You said you had to have him for that and I said no because he told the truth. We made a bargain, remember?”

“Yeah I remember,” snarled the demon. “Let him live, you said. We’ll see how he does, maybe you can have him yet. Well it didn’t work out so well for me, did it? Became president he did. I don’t like your bargains.” The demon crossed his arms and sat back in the chair.

“Ww, what’s going on?” Bobby stammered. The demon was about to yell at him again when the angel interrupted.

“You died in your sleep, Bobby,” the angel said. “Too much video game playing. Affected your brain.” He shrugged. “These things happen.” He reached out and patted Bobby’s knee. “It’ll work out, don’t you worry.”

“Like hell it will!” the demon bellowed, standing up suddenly. “He’s mine and I’ll have him! Just look at his desire to kill me every time he plays that stupid game!” he yelled, pointing at Bobby. “That should tell you all you need to know!”

“Here’s what I propose. A rematch. It didn’t work out for you with the Washington kid so now you’ll have a chance to win. We let him live, see how he turns out. You’ll probably win this time.”

The demon started pacing on the floor. “Why do I let you talk me into these things,” he grumbled. “Alright fine,” he said suddenly. Turning to Bobby he said, “You better make this work for me kid. I need to keep up my quotas and you would make a fine addition to the family.” Turning to the angel he said, “And you! No more bargains from you! I better win this one or there’ll be hell to pay!” In a flash of smoke and flame, he was gone. Bobby shuddered.

The angel softly chuckled to himself. “Never changes,” he said. “Never changes. Well that’s it Bobby. You get a reprieve.” The angel looked gravely at him. “Don’t make me regret it,” he said. “Now sleep.” Bobby slept.

Bobby’s mom poked her head into his room. “Time to get up dear, school.”

Bobby got up slowly. He rubbed his eyes and then got dressed. Grabbing his game controller he reached for the game machine, and stopped. Standing with his finger poised over the on button Bobby blinked a couple of times and then took back his hand. Laying the controller down, he reached for his school book. “That’s right,” he said. “I’ve got a test today.” And he opened the book.

The grandkids sat with their mouths gaping open. “Now let that be a lesson to you,” grandpa said. “Time for bed!”

The Tarot Card Mystery part Three

Here you are folks, part three!
sam-barton

Dull pain from his right shoulder to his hips caused Sam to wake and with his eyes still closed he sensed light coming through the office window. When the Jamaican girl shifted beneath his left arm he realized why he was in pain. Two people sleeping on a cot made for one did not afford him the best night sleep he’d ever had. Rising slowly so as not to wake her, Sam massaged some life back into his arm. Looking down at Christi, her lustrous black hair and brown bare shoulders silently invited him back to bed but he knew he shouldn’t. He wasn’t a guy who worried over much about morals but at this moment he was certainly hoping she wasn’t younger than twenty. She never did say how old she was. After a quick shower and a change of clothes he left a note for her on the desk: “Taking care of some business, be back later.” Then he left the office.

Sam stopped at a local eatery for breakfast. One of the neighborhood cops was sitting at the counter when Sam went in. “Hey Sam,” he said. “Long time no see.”

“Yeah Charlie,” said Sam, “How’s the family?”

“Oh everyone’s good. You know Martha,” he said, rubbing his large belly, “Always baking something for me.”

“Having a good woman in your life can be hazardous to your health Charlie. Better be careful,” Sam said as he sat down.

“Say, Sam, you haven’t heard any rumblings in the area about drugs have you?” The hairs on the back of Sam’s neck prickled.

“I don’t know what you mean, Charlie.”

“Well it seems Downtown has been getting some unofficial reports about a drug war taking shape around here. Two rival factions maybe. Just wondered if you’d heard anything.”

“Not me,” Sam said. “I try to keep my nose out of that kind of business.”

“Yeah I figured as much.” Charlie got up to leave. “If you hear anything you let me know, yeah?”

“You got it Charlie. See you ‘round.” Sam ate his breakfast in silence wondering again, just what he got himself into.

Finished with his breakfast, Sam went to see Madame DuPree. She was sitting quietly behind the counter when Sam opened the shop door. “So you found my niece. That was quick work Mr. Barton. Most impressive. But you did not bring her to me. Unfortunate.”

“She’s safe.”

“In your office. I sent Michael to collect her there.”

Sam was beginning to wonder if this old lady wasn’t psychic after all. “Well the office door is locked and…”

“Michael does not worry about locked doors, Mr. Barton. You may remember that I told you it would be most unfortunate if there were any entanglements between my niece and yourself. You should have heeded my advice.” Sam imagined the third frosted glass window of his office door in as many weeks smashed all over the floor and wondered just how the hell this lady knew what happened last night. Time to change the balance of the conversation.

“Look, here’s the situation. You asked me to find your niece. I found her, and got shot at and chased in the process. I intended to bring her to you but she insisted that she wasn’t going to come. I also learned a few things last night that you neglected to say. Christiana tells me you’re involved with drugs. She…”

“The girl lies.”

“That may be. However a couple things her captors said last night while they were trying to kill us suggest that she may be telling the truth. Now personally I don’t care what you’re into but when you withhold information that can get me killed I resent that. I did what you asked so if you don’t mind I’ll just take my check and our business will be concluded.”

“I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, Mr. Barton. I told you to simply bring back my niece and not get involved with her. You also know more now than you should. I’m afraid I can’t have you walking out of here and telling what you know. Your fat police friend would love to hear this tale, would he not?” Sam heard a noise and turned to find all six foot four inches of Michael standing right behind him. Michael reached out with his right hand and grabbed Sam by his coat. Sam took hold of Michael’s middle finger and bent it backward. It had no effect. He bent it further back until he heard it snap. Michael still held Sam firmly paying no attention to his broken finger as he pulled back his left arm and punched Sam square in the face. As Sam’s knees buckled under him, the lights dimmed and went out.

Sam woke lying on the floor with a massive headache and a swollen, possibly broken nose. At first he didn’t understand what had happened. He remembered talking to Madame DuPree and nothing more. Slowly, the big man standing behind him swam into his mind and then it all came back. Why didn’t they kill him, he wondered? Sitting up with his back to a wall, he surveyed his surroundings. He was in what looked to be a store room. Boxes and crates stacked haphazardly here and there filled most of the room. There were no windows that he could see through his blurred vision and only one door. Thinking of how he could get out of the room gave him an idea. He located a large crate with the lid sitting off to one side. Looking inside it he found packing material. Sam climbed in to the crate and pulled the lid back on top. Inside he pulled the packing material over him and settled in to wait.

While he lay concealed in the crate he thought about everything that happened. Something was bothering him. He was missing something he couldn’t quite get. Something someone had said. Everything Madame DuPree had said was pretty straight forward except the mumbo jumbo about tarot cards, so that wasn’t it. The same with Christi. Michael didn’t talk, so that wasn’t it. He hadn’t talked to anyone else involved with this thing. Sam thought about the two guys on the ship. What did they say? He thought about what he had heard and then it hit him. It was Jerry. What did he say? He was complaining about losing the girl. Yeah, that was it. He said, “The big man’s going to be pissed.” The big man. What did he mean? Who was the big man? Michael, of course was a big man. Could he mean… That didn’t make sense. Michael was a big dumb oaf who worked for Madame DuPree. And didn’t talk, unless the need arose, as DuPree had said. Could he, do you suppose… The thinking was making his head hurt worse so he tried to calm his mind. The crate was cramped and Sam felt like he was getting a charlie horse when he heard the door being unlocked.

“Well Mr. Bart…” Madame DuPree began and then stopped. “Michael! Get in here!” Michael stepped into the room. “Where is he Michael? Where did he go?” Sam heard the noise of boxes being moved. Shuffling feet told him the room was being searched. “It is impossible for him to have gotten out of here! He cannot have left.”

Suddenly Michael spoke. “I don’t know, Madame. He’s not here.”

“Then where is he!?” she yelled in her scraggly voice.

“I don’t know Madame. There are no windows and the door was locked.”

“Well he’s gone! This is bad Michael. We need to find him. And with Christiana gone also, it is doubly bad.”

“I’m sorry Madame. I went to his office like you told me. She wasn’t there. The note said he would be back. He was expecting her to be there, but she left.”

“We need to find them both. Use your resources Michael. Go! But keep in touch. Find them!”

“I will Madame. I will.” Sam heard them leave, and shut the door. They didn’t lock it. So much for her psychic abilities, he thought. He waited for a good ten minutes before sliding off the crate lid as quietly as he could. Climbing out of the box, Sam made his way to the door. Opening it and looking out he found he was in the same hallway in the back of the store as before but at the far end. There was no back door. He crept up the hallway and through the curtain saw Madame DuPree sitting behind the counter where she had been before. No sign of Michael. There was only one way out, nothing more he could do. Sam strode through the curtain, turned to look at the old lady and said, “Madame,” and kept walking for the door.

A screech came from behind him and she was on his back. She was light weight but seemed powerful. Her long red nails dug into Sam’s neck as she bit him in the back of the head. He swirled around hearing the jangle of her bracelets and smashed her into the shelves full of merchandise. Her products flew everywhere and the shelves collapsed. She hung on. Screeching and digging with her nails, Sam could feel blood running down his neck. He turned and ran backward as fast as he could, smashing her into the wall. She lost her grip and fell to the floor. As she attempted to get up, Sam punched her hard on the side of her head. Her head went back, banging into the floor and she lay still. He stood over her catching his breath. Reaching over and grabbing a lamp off the counter, Sam ripped out the electric cord. Flipping Madame DuPree onto her stomach he tied her hands behind her back and then tied her hands to her feet. Sam looked behind the counter and found a roll of paper towels which he used to stop the bleeding. As he left the store he pulled out the cell phone he rarely used and called the police. Telling them what had happened there, but nothing more, Sam quickly faded into the night. For night it was. He must have lain in that room for several hours.

Now he had to find Christi. If she had stayed in his office, Michael would have found her but she was gone. Unless. Unless Michael did find her there. Which would mean that Michael was not who he seemed to be. One way to find out. Sam’s office was on the second floor of an old building not far from DuPree’s shop. He went up the back stairs and peeked through the door. No one in the hall way. Sam reached for his 45 and realized that it was gone. Dammit, he liked that pistol. He could see glass on the floor at his door from his position by the back door. He heard no noise so he went in. The glass had been smashed out of the window and his office was wrecked. Most importantly though, Christi’s clothes and shoes were still there, telling him that Michael did find her there but did not tell Madame DuPree. Which meant that Michael was probably ‘the big man’ that Jerry the sailor had mentioned and was playing each side against the other in some kind of drug war.

Sam quickly pulled off his shirt and put on his Kevlar vest. Finding his 357 in the desk drawer, he put that in his coat pocket along with a hand full of extra bullets. He looked at himself in the mirror. He looked like hell. Holes in his neck with blood trickling from them, two black eyes and a broken nose. And the back of his head burned from the bite Madame DuPree had given him. “That’s it,” he said to his reflection. “Now I’m pissed. Time to go shoot some people.”

The Tarot Card Mystery part Two

sam-barton
Sam drove to the harbor. There were a few ships docked there and plenty of dark warehouses with alleys between them. He left his car in an unlit area and walked toward the docks. He wore his Kevlar vest under his shirt and had changed into rubber soled shoes which wouldn’t make any noise on the pavement. Stopping by a large pile of pallets he used his 30 power binoculars to survey the ships. Several were under foreign registry and looked regularly used. Then he noticed one old ship sitting away from the others. Lots of rust and no flags told him this old boat hadn’t gone anywhere in a long time. As he worked his way closer while staying in the shadows he noticed streaks of old red paint on its sides. Bingo, he thought, but now what? The ship was dark. No lights on the deck or from any of the portholes in its side. Walking along the side of a warehouse that paralleled the ship he found a gangway from the dock to the ship at its far end. Stepping onto the gangway he bounced his weight a couple of times to test its durability. Finding it sturdy enough he stepped quickly across and tried the door. The lever handle scrapped loudly as it moved and the hinges squealed as he pushed the door open. Waiting to see if the noise would attract any unwanted attention he then stepped inside.

Not wanting to make any more noise, Sam left the door standing open. It was dark enough outside that he didn’t think any light would shine in. Standing still and listening he thought he heard distant voices. Someone was shouting, but from where? Pulling out his small flashlight he risked turning it on. He was in a long hallway with doors and other hallways leading off of it. Shutting off the light Sam started to make his way along with his hand on the wall to keep his bearing in the dark. As he moved he began to make out some features in the hallway and soon came to an open doorway where dim light spilled out. There was definitely shouting coming from the room. He passed the open door quickly, seeing no one inside and stood behind the door. The steel walls, floor and ceiling echoed the shouting voice and made it hard to make out what was being said. He thought he heard the shouter saying something about wanting information. Something like, ‘that old lady is going to get herself killed’. Footsteps began to come toward the door and the shouter yelled, “But you’re going to die first if you don’t open up!” A man in an old seaman’s coat and cap emerged through the door and stomped down the hallway in the opposite direction Sam had come, muttering under his breath. Sam waited until the man was out of site and slipped around the door and into the room.

To the left of the doorway was a young woman tied to a chair. Her head hung down, chin resting on her chest. She was wearing black capri’s and a dirty maroon button up shirt, with a few buttons missing. Sam made his way to her and as he approached her head snapped up and she opened her mouth to speak. Sam quickly clapped his hand over her mouth and said, “Listen to me. I’ve come to get you out of here. Your Aunt sent me looking for you. She’s worried you might be in trouble. Looks like she was right. I’ll cut you loose but you need to follow me out.” The girl nodded her head and Sam took his hand away from her mouth. Using his knife he cuts the ropes. As the ropes fell to the floor she stood, rubbing her wrists.

“Alright mon, lead da way,” she said in a very Jamaican accent. The two of them left the room and as quietly as they could, made their way up the hallway. Sam heard noise behind them. The shouter was back and had found her gone. He yelled for someone named Jerry and running footsteps began to get closer. They ran. A light came from behind Sam and the girl and then a gunshot. The bullet whined as it pinged off the metal walls of the ship. Two more shots came as Sam and the girl reached the door he had left open. Out the door, across the gangway and into the open space between the ship and the warehouse. As they approached the warehouse Sam grabbed the young girl and pulled her into the shadows beside the building. They lay on the ground between some stacked pallets and the side of the building, Sam’s arms around her. He put his finger to his lips indicating silence. She looked into Sam’s eyes, smiled and wiggled closer to him. “Dis is nice,” she whispered.

As the shouter ran past them another man, who must have been Jerry, came by as well. “Did you see which way they went?” he asked.

“If I’d seen which way they went I’d know where to look, wouldn’t I?”

“You don’t have to be crappy with me Monty, yer the one let her escape!”

“She was tied up good when I left her!” Monty shouted. “Someone come in here and cut her loose. Don’t you blame me fer that!”

“Big man’s gonna be pissed, Monty,” Jerry said.

“Don’t you think I know that? That old witch gets the upper hand on us, all hell’s gonna break loose! I just ‘bout had her talkin’.”

“We had her in there for three days and she ain’t said shit!” yelled Jerry. “Whata you mean you almost had her talkin’?”

“Shut yer head, Jerry, for you get it taken off.”

Jerry and Monty searched the area but Sam and the girl were hidden well enough that they didn’t find them. The two men finally made their way back to the ship, arguing all the way. Sam and the girl came out from their hiding place and went the long way around the warehouse to Sam’s car. Climbing inside Sam started the engine and pulled away from the docks.

“Where we goin’ mon?” the girl asked.

“You’re Christiana, aren’t you?”

“Oh ya, I’m Christiana alright but I liked to be called Christi if ya don’t mind.”

“I’m taking you back to your Aunt. She hired me to find you. As I said before she’s pretty wor….”

“Aww no you’re not takin’ me back to dat old bat,” Christi interrupted. “She’s da reason I’m in trouble in da first place. Her an’ her drug dealin’! Why you think dem guys had me on dat ship? She sells drugs mon. She interferen’ wit dere own drug dealin’. She makin’ more money den dem guys,” she said, motioning backward with her head. “Day don like dat. So dey snatch me to get to her. Den you come along and save me!” She laughed at this and as she laughed she slid across the car seat right next to Sam’s side. “So I’m thinkin’ I could jus’ stay wit you, ya know? We go back to your place, get warm an’ cozy for da night. Den tomorrow you can help me get back to Jamaica! My Da an’ me we lived there. He sent me to live wit’ de old witch when he was dyin’. Said I’d have a better life. But he din know about da drugs mon. So I got to get back. I got other family dere who I can go to. But dat can wait ‘till tomorrow. Tonight it’s jus’ me an’ you.” Christi slid her hand under Sam’s coat to caress his chest and felt something in his pocket. “What’s dis?” she said, snatching out the Death tarot card Sam had put there. Laughing hard she hooted, “Aww dis is rich! Did she give you dis?”

Sam at this point unsure if any of this was real, nodded his head. Christi waved the card in the air. “Oooo,” she called. “Death gonna get you!” Laughing again she flung the card into the back seat. “You not takin’ me back to dat crazy old bat. Take me to your place or let me out right here! Besides,” she said, cozying up to him again, “You look like you could use some fun in your life, mon!” Not knowing what else to do, Sam drove the car to his office. Once inside Christi spotted the bottle of Jameson whisky on the shelf behind Sam’s desk. “Let me pour ya a drink mon,” She said. Glasses in hand she grabbed the bottle and came back to Sam’s side. Setting the bottle on the desk she reached to turn on the radio. Sam kept his old tube radio tuned to his favorite Jazz station. Moving sensuously to the music she said, “Dis is more like it mon.”

“I don’t think we should be doing this,” Sam said. “You’re the niece of a client and besides, you’re awfully young.”

“Aww don’ you worry about dat. I’m old enough for you.” Christi slid her hands under Sam’s coat and pushed it off his shoulders. Beginning to unbutton his shirt she discovered the Kevlar vest. “Oh, dis has got to go,” she said. Pouring two whiskeys and handing one to Sam she knocked hers back quickly. Rubbing her lips with the back of her hand and locking eyes with Sam she poured another. Before he knew it his shirt and Kevlar vest were off and Christi was unbuttoning her own. Knowing this was a bad idea he and the girl sunk onto his cot, and into the depths of passion.

The Case Of The Missing Pipe part Five

Okay folks, this is the last episode of “The Case Of The Missing Pipe.” This was first published last year on the “Pipesmagazine” website. Enjoy!
private detective

The Case Of The Missing Pipe Part Five

“Hey Cap’n, we got a live one here!”

Police captain James Richards had responded to a ‘shots fired’ call at the Gialone estate around midnight. Since Sylvester Gialone’s death the estate had been quiet. It seemed Mary, his widow, had just wanted to live a life out of the spotlight. So when the call came in, it peaked his interest. He stepped over one of the two dead bodies they had found and approached his Sargent, who was kneeling over a third. “Well, look who it is,” he said. “Sam Barton. I wonder what got him mixed up in this business?”

“Took a shot to the chest, Cap’n. Won’t be good,” said the Sargent as he pulled open the buttons on Sam’s shirt. “Well looky there! He’s wearin’ a vest.” When Sam had changed his clothes before coming to the estate with Mary, he put on his Kevlar vest, beliving he may need it. He wasn’t completely anti-technology. “Only reason he’s still breathin’.”

“Alright Sarg, let’s get him over to General, let the Doc’s look him over. And post a guard on his door. Nobody in or out. Maybe he’ll have some answers for us.”

Two weeks later, suffering from the pain of two broken ribs, Sam sat at the counter of his favorite tobacconist sipping his pipe. Slowly rolling smoke around his mouth, he blew it out through his nose. Savoring the after taste, he said to Smitty, who was waiting anxiously, “Well Smitty, you’ve done it again. This is a great English. Can you wrap up two ounces of this for me?” A giant smile worked it’s way across Smitty’s homely face. He liked nothing better than a satisfied customer.

As Smitty went to get the tobacco, Sam thought about the fiasco with Mary Gialone. The microfilm that Sam found in Sylvester’s pipe contained a list of all the mob families names he had been involved with and the crimes they committed over the last several years. When he had felt up to it, Sam gave his statement to the cops and Vincent Brugglio and all his cronies had been rounded up and charged with multiple crimes. He told them about Mary and all that had happened since she first came to his office. It didn’t take the police long to start making arrests and the papers were full of headlines making Sam out to be the hero for bringing down the mob. One little problem that still needed to be solved was that Mary had not been found. Somehow she had slipped away and the police were still looking for her. Which meant to Sam, that he, was still involved.

Sam had a feeling that Mary would try to contact him again, and he was seldom wrong about his feelings. Without any mob friends left or the ability to go home, Sam figured she had few options. The police had raided the building the thugs had taken he and Mary to and many others. However, Mary was still out there so someone was helping her.

Back at his office later that night with a new frosted glass window pane in the door, Sam loaded up his pipe with the new English tobacco. Smitty was a hell of a blender and seemed to always know just what Sam would like. Switching on the radio to his favorite Jazz station he sipped a 20 year old Jameson and sat back and lit up. The smoke rolled around his head as his friend Scarlet’s voice came over the air waves. “As many of my listeners know, I have a good friend whose name is Sam. This next group is one of his favorites. So while you listen to this, ‘Take Five’ and think about all that’s happened Sam ’cause, it ain’t over yet.” And with that, the Dave Brubeck Quartet came on with ‘Take Five’, his favorite tune. Sam always had an appreciation for the disjointed feel of the 5/4 time signature of the song. Puffing slowly on his Billiard, he thought about what Scarlet said. Her words reinforced his feeling that Mary would turn up somehow. After his smoke he laid down on his cot and enjoyed a dreamless sleep.

The next morning after he was dressed and had the coffee on, the telephone rang. “Sam Barton here,” he said into the receiver.

“Sam, it’s Mary.”

“I wondered when you’d call,” Sam said. “You know the cops are looking for you.”

“I know Sam. We’ve got to talk. Can I come to your office?”

“Kind of risky, don’t you think? What makes you think I won’t turn you in?”

“Sam, you’ve got to understand, I was forced to do what I did. They threatened to kill me. I, I’m sorry Sam. I didn’t mean for all this to happen to you,” Mary sobbed into the phone. “Please Sam, I’m so scared. I’m in the alley behind your office. I don’t have anyone I can trust Sam, please?”

“Sure Mary,” Sam said. “C’mon up.”

Sam smelled the cigarette smoke as soon as Mary started up the stairs. God he hated cigarettes. She opened the door to his office without knocking and closed it again quickly. Stubbing out her smoke in the ash tray, she paced as she talked. “Sam it was all an act. I had to do it. They needed the information that my husband kept on all of them and they used me to get it. You must understand.” Coming around to where Sam was seated she lifted herself up, and sat on the desk. Crossing her legs caused her skirt to shift slightly. Reaching out she took Sam’s hand, and rested it on her leg as she toyed with his fingers. She didn’t notice the newly installed camera in a darkened corner of the office.

“We could run away Sam. My husband had off shore bank accounts. There’s millions, Sam. With your help we could have access to them. We could go live on the beach, just you and me. I felt something between us Sam, I did. Didn’t you feel it? We could…..” At that moment Captain Richards and his Sargent came through the door, Mary turned on Sam. “You called the cops?!” Mary took a swing at Sam as he backed up his chair.

“No Mary, I didn’t call them. They’re in the next office with a bug on my phone and they’ve been watching you on that camera ever since you came in,” he said pointing at the corner.

“You bastard! I trusted you!”Mary screamed.

“Yeah, well I trusted you too. Seems we were both wrong.”

Mary lunged off the desk at the Sargent who was approaching her. Pushing her shoulder into his chest she grabbed his gun from his holster as he fell backward and started pulling the trigger. Bullets were flying everywhere. Sam came out of his chair and grabbed her with both arms in a bear hug, swung her around and slammed her into the wall. As Sam grabbed the gun in her hand she squeezed off one more shot. The bullet went right through his new frosted glass window. Pulling the gun from her hand as glass rained to the floor, Sam pushed her against the wall and held her there. The Sargent and Captain Richards handcuffed her.

“We could have it all Sam! There’s millions!”

“Yeah well, not anymore honey,” said the Sarg. “You’re goin’ to jail.”

“Shut up you dim witted freak! Sam please. Tell them! It was all an act! I was forced into it. Sam!!”

“Get her out of here Sarg. And keep a hold of your gun.” Captain Richards said, handing it back to him.

“Let go of me, dammit! Sam you bastard! I’ll get you for this. You can’t do this to me. Sam!!!

As the Sargent pulled her from the office, Sam sat back in his chair. His ribs hurt from the exertion of wrestling with Mary. The Captain looked around at the bullet holes and broken glass. “Sorry about your office Sam. I guess I need to have a talk with my Sargent. What did she mean by, ‘there’s millions?’ I didn’t hear that on camera.

“She asked me to help her get access to her husbands off shore bank accounts. Said we could run away. Guess that’s what I get messing around with a dame.”

“Geez Sam, who calls a women a ‘Dame’ anymore?”

“I don’t know Captain. Who says ‘Geez’ anymore?”

The Captain laughed as he left. “I’ll be in touch, Sam.”

Sam reached for his pipe. Filling the bowl he lit it up and puffed clouds of smoke into the air. As he smoked the phone rang. Picking it up he said, “Sam Barton here.”

“Mr Barton, you’re a private investigator right?” said a female voice. “My name is Andrea Smith, Mr Barton and I’m in trouble. I think I need….” Sam hung up the phone.

The Case Of The Missing Pipe part Four

private detective

Here is part four of my continuing story, The Case Of The Missing Pipe. First published on pipesmagazine.com

Once inside the house, Sam told Mary not to turn on the lights. He produced a flashlight from inside his coat. Along with this he carried his revolver in the shoulder holster and his 45 in a pocket. He was taking as few chances as possible. With just the small light source he could tell that the house was filled with expensive items. Statuary and paintings in the halls and plush furniture in the various rooms. Mary led them straight to Sylvester’s study. She said she had looked for the pipe when she found it missing, but they were going to look again.

Sam started with the desk drawers. Finding all the usual things one might find in a desk, paperwork and some files, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. One drawer had some tools like a screwdriver and pliers, a small piece of plumbing pipe and some wire. Mary searched the shelves. Pulling out books to look behind them, she found nothing. A couple of cabinets in the room also revealed nothing. “Is there a safe?” Sam asked.

“There is, but I don’t have a key.” Mary walked to a large painting of a landscape on the wall and pulled on one side. The painting swung out to reveal a safe about two feet square. It had the usual lever style handle and a key hole. “I never saw him open it.” Sam noticed that there were scratches around the key hole. Sam started thinking. “Your husband said the pipe was the key. The key to everything. A pipe isn’t big enough to hold a key and yet he said the pipe was the key.” Turning this over in his mind, he suddenly had a thought. Turning to the desk he opened the drawer with the tools. Inside was a four inch piece of plumbing drain pipe about an inch and a half in diameter. Pulling it out revealed that both ends were capped. He shook it. It didn’t make any noise and trying to unscrew the caps he found they wouldn’t budge. Using the pliers and grasping the pipe firmly, one of the caps started to move. Finally getting it off he found paper stuffed inside. Pulling it out and unfolding it, he found a shiny silver key. “Well, the pipe is the key after all,” he said. “Just not the pipe we were looking for.”

The key slid neatly into the safe lock. Turning it to the right and pulling down on the handle, Sam opened the safe. There on the shelf of the otherwise empty safe sat a beautifully carved Meerschaum pipe on a black onyx pipe stand. He looked at it for a moment before reaching in and taking it out. Mary stood beside him marveling. “That’s it,” she whispered. “That’s the pipe he had.”

As Mary held the flashlight, Sam sat in the desk chair and looked it over. The bowl was black inside, like it had some kind of coating. The carving was of trees and little houses resembling a country scene. There was no writing on it, nothing to identify it in any way. Nothing in the bowl. The stem had been pushed in slightly crooked. “He said it was the key to everything, but it was locked. That’s what he said. It was locked. I don’t know what he meant.” Sam thought about this. How could it be locked? Grasping the stem, he turned it back and forth to pull it out. It wouldn’t budge. So that’s how it’s locked, he thought. He couldn’t understand how the stem could turn around easy enough but wouldn’t pull out. It’s locked, he thought again. But how? “I suppose you could break it,” said Mary. Sam looked at her for a moment. “Well, it’s just a thought.”

“Were not breaking it.” Sam said. “It’s locked, just like he said. I just don’t understand how. Maybe it’s…. maybe it’s like a lock.” The pipe had a longer than usual shank and Sam suddenly envisioned a system of slots inside. Grasping the stem firmly, he pulled on it while turning it slowly around. Thinking it might be like a combination lock, he turned to the right. Three fourths of the way around it suddenly popped out an eighth of an inch. Mary watched intently. Continuing to pull on the stem he turned it the other way. Three fourths of the way back, it pulled out another eighth of an inch. Turning once more to the right, this time only half way around the stem came free. Mary let out a squeal. Sam peered down into the pipe shank and said, “How the hell did this thing get carved like that?”

“Oh who cares?” Mary exclaimed. “Is there anything in there?” Sam looked at her again. She’s practically salivating, he thought. He looked in the air hole of the stem and found that there was something in it.

“You have a tweezers?”

“I’ll get one!” Mary ran out of the room, leaving Sam in the dark. She seemed to be pretty excited about finding clues to this mystery. Sam wasn’t sure what to think. Quickly tapping the stem on the desk and feeling with his finger Sam pulled something out of the stem airhole. In his fingers in the dark, it felt like a flimsy piece of plastic, like film. Sam slipped this into an inside pocket just before the flashlight beam came bobbing back in the room followed by Mary. She handed him a tweezers. Poking around in the stem and shank, Sam found nothing.

“Well Mary, there doesn’t seem to be anything here. You seemed pretty excited to locate this pipe. What were you thinking we would find?” Sam twisted the stem back into the shank.

“I…uh…well I don’t know. It just seemed like these clues were adding up to something. These guys, these thugs are after this pipe. It seems like there must be something this thing would lead us too. Now this looks like a dead end.”

“You never told me what they were after, Mary. How do you know they’re after this pipe?”

Suddenly the room was bathed in light. Sam’s eyes smarted and he closed them quickly. Blinking them open he found himself looking into the barrels of three pistols. The bad guys again, and he hadn’t heard them coming. How do they do that, he wondered? The thug nearest him stepped aside as another man walked into the room. This guy wasn’t wearing a mask like the other three. He was handsome, with salt and pepper hair. Wearing a tailored black three piece suit he walked into the room with ease.

“Well done, Mary.” he said. He put his arm around her shoulder, leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. “You should have went into acting. You were very good.” Salt and Pepper leaned forward and took the pipe from Sam’s hands.

“Sam looked in the pipe, Vince. he didn’t find anything.”

“Don’t worry Mary. This pipe holds more secrets than you know.”

“Someone mind telling me what’s going on here?” Sam asked.

“Well Mr. Barton, it seems you’ve been taken for a ride. I suppose I could tell you since you won’t live long enough for it to do you any good. You see, Sylvester Gialone was my business partner. It seems he grew a conscience over the years and decided to turn states evidence in return for immunity from the cops. Mary and I had been having an affair for some time and when she let me know this, we got rid of him. Unfortunately, he left some evidence behind. Mary let us know about the pipe, and we’ve been looking for it for quite awhile.” Waving his hand toward the safe, he said, “This safe is super reinforced steel. Since we couldn’t get into it we decided to enlist some outside help. You were it. A man of your talents would surely find a way into it. And you did. But I’m afraid that’s all we need from you, Mr Barton.”

The man turned and walked toward the door with Mary. She looked back at Sam over her shoulder and smiled. The man said, “Boys, you know what to do.”

A moment later Sam heard them shutting the front door. As quick as he could he reached out and deftly snatched the gun from the hand of the closest thug. Sticking it right into the guy’s ribs, he pulled the trigger. The sound was deafening in the small office. The man let out a yell and fell to the floor. As he was falling, Sam pulled out his revolver and started blasting at the other two who were taking cover behind the desk. Sam slid down to the floor and shot under the desk, hitting another one in the leg. Screaming, the man rolled away. The third guy shot a couple more times at Sam, bullets hitting books behind the desk. As Sam waited, the thug with the leg wound peeked around the desk. Sam shot him, hitting him in the neck. Blood spilled and the man went quiet.

Sam edged over to the first guy he shot and caught site of the man’s shoes. Felt soles, he thought. So that’s how they did it. The last guy was on the other side of the desk. Time to make his play. Sam stood and rushed the guy, but he was waiting for him. The man held his pistol in both hands and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit Sam square in the chest, lifting him right off his feet. His body slammed against the book shelf on the wall. Books flew everywhere as Sam’s body collapsed to the floor. The bad guy got up and gave Sam a couple kicks in the leg. He heard sirens in the distance. This guy’s dead, he thought, and ran for the door.

To be continued….

The Case Of The Missing Pipe part Three

private detective

Parts One and Two are available in earlier posts. If you haven’t read this yet, check them out!

The Case Of The Missing Pipe, part Three

“My husband knew he was going to die,” recalled Mary Gialone. “He knew.”

Mary and Sam Barton were sitting in Sam’s friend Scarlet’s living room. For reasons as varied as the clients Sam worked for, he sometimes needed a place to stay. Scarlet had given him a key. “He called me to his study one night, it was only two or three nights before he died. He was sitting at his desk and he had this pipe in his hands. It was very ornately carved and made out of some white material.”

“Probably Meerschaum,” Sam interrupted.

“Meerschaum, yes that’s it. A very beautiful pipe. He was looking at it very intently when I came into the room. I asked him what he wanted, but he didn’t say anything. He just kept turning the pipe in his hands, staring at it. I asked him what was wrong. He looked up at me then, like he just realized I was there. He said, ‘Dear, this pipe is the key. The key to everything.’ I asked him what he was talking about but instead of answering me, he stood up and walked back to the display case where he kept the pipe. Putting it away, he said again, ‘The pipe is the key. But it’s locked.’ That’s all he said.”

“I didn’t think much about it until sometime after he died. I was so distraught with grief that it wasn’t until about a month ago that I remembered that strange night. And I wondered if this pipe could have anything to do with his death. So I went to his study to look at it and, well, it was gone.”

“Someone stole it?” Sam asked.

“It didn’t appear so. The break in happened about a week later. The pipe was just missing from its case. The case sat on a shelf behind my husband’s desk. When I saw that it was missing, I didn’t think much more about it. Then about a week later someone broke in and stole all my husband’s smoking pipes. I decided then that I needed help. Now I’m sure that pipe has something to do with my husband’s death. I don’t know what, but something.”

“Did you search for the Meerschaum pipe? Was anything else missing?

“I did. I looked through the desk and cabinets of the office but found nothing. And nothing else was missing. Why would someone steal only his pipes? There’s alot of questions here that need answers.”

“I’d like to get a look in there,” Sam said. Just then he heard a noise from the kitchen. Moving his hand nearer his revolver, he waited. Scarlet peered around the corner.

“Well Sam’s here,” she said, in her low, sultry voice. “And you brought a date. How nice.” Scarlet was a radio announcer for an all night jazz station in the city and a good friend of Sams.

“Hello Scarlet,” Sam said. “I hope you don’t mind we’re here. We needed a place to stay that no one knows about. This is Mary, by the way. She’s a client.”

Scarlet gave him a concerned look. “Are you in trouble again?” she asked.

“Nothing I can’t handle, and I promise, there’ll be no trouble for you.” She glared. “I know, I’ve said that before. But I mean it. Really. Scarlet? Stop looking at me like that. I mean it. You’ll be fine. Promise.”

“Okay, Sam. I’m going to bed. Nice to meet you Mary.”

“And you,” Mary said. “Thank you for letting us stay. I’m afraid this is all my fault.”

“No Mary, it’s not. It’s Sam’s fault. It always is. Night.”

“Hey!” Sam called after her as she disappeared down the hall. “That’s not fair.”

“Life never is, Sam.” She called back.

Sam sat for a moment, thinking. “What happened after they took me away?” Sam asked.

“That’s what’s strange about this. Nothing happened. I must have sat there for a couple of hours. I had no idea that you would come back for me. Finally one of the guys with a mask on came to the room. He walked toward me and I stood up fast. I guess he wasn’t expecting it. And then I kicked him in the, well, in the groin. He let out a yell and doubled over. That’s when I ran. I ran down the hall to the door. I didn’t know if it was locked, I didn’t know where it went…” Mary began to tear up. “I, I just knew I had to get out of there. I was so scared. I knew if they caught me then, I’d, I, I knew something bad would happen.” Sam handed Mary a tissue from the box on the coffee table. “And that’s when I ran into you,” she said.

Sam was getting a feeling. He knew something wasn’t right but it just wasn’t coming to him. “Are you telling me everything Mary? Don’t get me wrong but I’ve got a good sense about these things. When these thugs showed up at my office and knocked me out, I remember one of them saying something to you about being told not to say anything. Seems to me you had contact with them before you came to see me. Now, I’m not sure what’s going on here but I get the feeling you’re not telling me everything. And since I’m reluctantly up to my neck in this I think it’s time for you to level with me. If I think you’re using me for something, I’ll turn you back over to them myself.”

Mary started to cry. Putting her hands to her face, she sobbed into them. “I can’t.” she said. “I just can’t do this. I can’t lie. I, I just wasn’t raised like that.” Taking more tissue, she wiped her eyes and blew her nose. After composing herself for a moment she said, “I have been lying to you. They wanted me to get you to find the pipe, to use you to find it for them. Just as my husband said it was the key to, to something, they believe the pipe somehow holds some information they want. I don’t know what it is. They wouldn’t tell me.” Mary sniffed and wiped her eyes again. After the break in, they came to my house. They wanted the pipe. They threatened me, tried to scare me but I told them I didn’t know what happened to it. I was told not to talk. Not to go to anyone for help. But I was scared, and that’s why I came to you. I thought you could help me. I’m sorry.”

“After they took us from your office and then let you go, they threatened me again. They said I had to get you to help me. Make it real, they said. Make him believe it. They had people watching the street and saw you come back. They told me to run out the door like I escaped. I guess they chased us to scare you. I’m so sorry.”

Sam sat back on the sofa. It had been a long night and he was tired. Rubbing his face with his hands, he looked at Mary. Was she telling him the truth now? He couldn’t be sure. Could he walk away without them coming after him? He wasn’t sure of that either.

“Alright Mary. I’ll play along.” He stood up. “We’ll get some sleep here today and tonight we’ll go to your house and look for the pipe. I assume that a woman in your position has access to money and your going to need it. I charge by the hour.” She looked up at him. “I’m not happy about any of this. I should take you back to them and let them do what they want. Except I probably wouldn’t get out alive myself. I’ve lost my interest in helping you so let me make this clear. I’ll help you to the point where I can get out of this alive and then you’re on your own.” Gesturing toward the sofa Sam said, “You can sleep there. I’ll take the chair.”

As Sam settled into the recliner he went over everything in his mind. Things were still not adding up but he didn’t have enough information to put it all together. His last thought before drifting off was that he would find that pipe and put an end to this. And then Mary would be out of his life for good.

The blond was good looking alright. And she smelled even better. The closer she came to him the more aroused Sam got. Sliding her hands around his waist she pulled him close. Her face snuggled in and she kissed him on his ear. He snuggled back. And then she kicked him. And kicked him again. Sam opened his eyes to find Mary tapping his knee with her hand. “It’s late afternoon, Sam. Better wake up” Sam sat up in the chair. Rubbing his face he thought, why are my dreams always better than my life?

After leaving a note for Scarlet they went to Sam’s office and freshend up in the bathroom there. Sam changed clothes and told Mary what he had planned. “If these guys think you’re lying to get me to help you, they shouldn’t bother us if we go to your house. I’m going to find that pipe and put an end to this.” Sam loaded up his own pipe and struck a match. Puffing deeply, he enjoyed the Latakia taste filling his mouth. He didn’t ask Mary if she wanted to join him in a smoke. They drove to Mary’s house at dusk. Her husband had been a gangster who amased quite a forture in ill gotten money and the house showed it. A large iron gate and fence protected the property. As they drove up the winding driveway lined with exotic trees and shrubs, the house came in to view. A gothic style mansion with large windows and several round peaks presented a formidable fascade.

Sam wasn’t sure what to expect and was careful to be aware of his surroundings. At this time of day there were too many shadows for his liking. Shutting off the car and stepping out, he looked up at the house. It was big enough to get lost in. He had always wondered at the extravigence of the rich, why they thought they needed such oppulance. Mary looked nervous. “Everything alright?” Sam asked. She looked at him and nodded. Stepping up to the front door, Mary used her key. As she stepped inside, Sam took one last look around the yard and followed her through the door. Many times in his career he wondered if he was doing the right thing. Wondered if his next move would be his last. This, was one of those times.

To be continued….

The Old Man

old man in wheelchair
The old man sat in his wheelchair in front of the big window, watching the clouds gather, turning darker. A young aide nearby said, “Well Mr. Arneson, it looks like it’s going to rain.”

“Arne” Arneson was known as the grumpiest guy in the nursing home. He turned his head painfully toward the young man and quipped, “Aw, what do you know?”

The young man replied, “I’m in college. I’m going to be a meteorologist.”

“A meteor what?” Arne asked.

“A meteorologist. It’s a fancy name for a weatherman.”

“Huh,” Arne grumbled. “In my day, we didn’t need no fancy meteorologist to tell us the weather. We knew by the signs. Nature, boy. Tells you all you need to know.”

“My father was a farmer,” the young man said. “He taught me all about the signs of nature. How to tell when the weather was changing, how to know when to plant, when to harvest. It’s what got me interested in meteorology. He died last year. I really miss him and the time we had together.”

“Yeah well I miss smoking my pipe. Don’t let you have no pipe in here. Sir Walter Raleigh. Best smoke ever.”

The next day the young aide found Arne in the Great Room in front of the window. The day was bright and clear after yesterday’s rain. He asked if Arne would like to go outside. Arne only grunted. The young man steered the wheelchair down a hallway and they went out through a side door. Parking the chair in the shade, the young man sat on a bench next to Arne. Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a corn cob pipe, and a pouch of Sir Walter Raleigh pipe tobacco. “I thought you might like a smoke,” he said. Arne stared at the young man as he placed the pipe and tobacco in Arne’s hands. Arne fumbled with the pouch and the aide held out his hand. “Mind if I do it,” he asked.

The young man took the pouch and pipe back. “The man at the tobacco store showed me how to pack it.” He opened the pouch, packed the pipe with tobacco and handed it back to Arne. Arne gripped the pipe between his teeth while the young man produced a match and lit it.

Arne puffed up a cloud of smoke and took the pipe from his mouth. Putting it back he puffed some more. As they watched the fluffy clouds float by the young man told Arne all the scientific names for the various cloud types. After awhile, Arne said, “You know, you just might make a good meteorologist.”

The young man turned his head toward Arne and asked, “Aw, what do you know?” And they laughed.

The Case Of The Missing Pipe Part Two

For anyone who likes old detective stories or the old radio programs, here’s a story in that vein.
private detective

The case of The Missing Pipe, part Two

Street lights illuminated the wet pavement, empty sidewalks and dark windows. At this late hour only the rare car disturbed the quiet. In a few more hours the city would again come to life, but for now it was like a different world. In this world, Sam Barton fit in perfectly. He understood this world. It was like black and white. There was good and there was bad. There was right and there was wrong. Sam’s world did not include things like computers and cell phones. Facebook and texting were like foreign words. Reality TV shows were the dumbest things he could think of. He watched one once. About ten minutes in he almost blasted the TV with his .45. Sam didn’t fit in the modern world. He always felt out of place. Except late at night. Sometimes he walked the streets, smoking his pipe alone. He felt comfortable there. There, he knew what to do and how to do it. It was his world.

As he sat at his desk, absentmindedly running a pipe cleaner through his Grandfathers old billiard, the sultry voice of Scarlet Lee came through the old tube radio in Sam’s office. “And for all you night owls out there, here’s a great old Jazz piece for you. I’m dedicating this one to my old friend, Sam. I know you’re listening, so I’ll just say this. Don’t let her down Sam. Just don’t let her down.” Scarlet had the uncanny ability to know what Sam was thinking and usually gave good advice. They had tried dating when they first met about three years before but it hadn’t worked out. They remained friends however, and saw each other from time to time. What with the hours they kept though, more often than not, they met on the radio. Scarlet talking and Sam listening. He could listen to that voice all night. But he knew he had other things to do. Scarlet was right, he couldn’t let the lady down. Silently chastising himself for getting involved in the first place, he went to the large map of the city on his office wall. Finding the block where the mysterious thugs had left him, he back tracked the route they had taken by remembering the sounds he had heard as well as the turns they made and the time it took. He figured the building had to be near a train station, close to a street that was busy late at night.

While filling his pipe and lighting it he followed the streets with his finger. After a couple dead ends he finally found what he was looking for. Down the stairs and into his car, he raced across town. He hadn’t taken the time to do anything about the broken window in his office door, but that would have to wait. Hopefully no one would come around. As business hadn’t been that great lately, he wasn’t overly concerned. Slowing down as he approached the area he found on the map, he found himself on Dale Avenue. A collection of late night bars and 24 hour pawn shops about three blocks from a train station. They had made two turns to the left when they pulled away from the building and then a quick right and sped up. That must have been the on ramp to the freeway as they had gone quite fast. Driving under the freeway bridge with the on ramp on his left he took the next right. One block down he took another right and pulled over to the curb across the street from an old warehouse. This had to be it. Reaching under his coat he pulled out his Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum. Popping open the cylinder reveled six fresh rounds. He loved his .45 but this baby felt better in his hand and would put a nice size hole through any thug he came across. Besides, his .45 was fully loaded in his coat pocket. Grabbing some extra rounds for the .357 he slipped out of the car and walked across the street. A door on the street side was probably the one they came out of. Time to find out for sure.

As he placed his hand on the knob it turned in his hand and the door burst open. Mary Gialone flew right into his arms. “Run!” she screamed. Grabbing each others hands they turned and ran toward Sam’s car. Through the door behind them came the thugs. Three of them with masks and guns. Sam palmed his .357 and turned. Blam, Blam, Blam! He shot three times, hitting two of them and the third bullet ricocheted off the sidewalk. As Mary swung around the back side of the car Sam dropped to one knee, aimed well and shouted, “Stop right there, or you’ll get the same.” The thug stopped. With his buddies writhing on the ground in pain he threw up his hands. “Gun on the ground buddy, slowly,” Sam said. The man bent and placed his gun on the street. Sam stood and backed to his car. Reaching behind him he felt for the door handle while not taking his eye or the revolver off his target.

“You’re making a big mistake,” the man said. “We let you go. You were out of it. You shoulda stayed out of it.”

“Yeah, well I’ve made mistakes before,” Sam said, as he slipped into the driver seat. With Mary already in the car he started the engine and squealed tires all the way down the block. Taking a right and then a left he swerved over to the on ramp and flew onto the freeway. Before long he spotted a car in the mirror coming up behind, pretty fast. “Well that didn’t take long,” he said.

“What?” Mary asked.

“Better put your seat belt on. We’re being chased.”

Mary turned around to look as Sam accelerated, changed lanes and swerved in front of a car in the next lane. Mary pulled her seat belt around her, clicking it into place. “What about yours?” she said.

“No time now,” Sam said. He swerved again to put another car between them and the chasers. “We’re never going to lose them on the freeway. Got to find a place to get off.”

Up ahead there was an interchange with another freeway. Sam took the off ramp and slowed down. As soon as he entered traffic he swung the car onto a street off the freeway. Nearly going up on two wheels the tires screamed in protest. The chaser car was right behind them. Up ahead Sam could see stop lights that had turned red. Waiting for the light was a tractor trailer rig. Sam headed straight for it as he stomped on the gas. “What are you doing?” Mary yelled. Sam said nothing as he continued straight at the trailer. Right before they would hit Sam pulled left on the wheel to swerve around the trailer. With the chaser car right behind them, the bad guys didn’t have enough time to react. As Sam and Mary sped past the trailer, running the red light, the chaser car clipped the trailer’s back end. Sparks and metal flying, the car spun around and hit another car in the next lane. Flipping upside down, the car rolled and screeched through the intersection on it’s roof. Sam saw flames in his rear view mirror as they drove away.

A half an hour later, the two of them sat in a booth at an all night diner drinking coffee. The sun was just coming up. “What’ll we do?” Mary asked. “We can’t go back to your place or mine. They’ll find us.”

Sam pulled out his pipe and then noticed the ‘No Smoking’ sign behind the counter. Reluctantly putting it back in his pocket he said, “I’ve got a friend or two we can see about a place to stay. Once we’re safe, you’re going to tell me what I’ve risked my life for.”

With a sly smile, Mary said, “Isn’t risking your life for me good enough?”

Without any smile at all on his face, Sam threw some money on the table for the bill. Standing up and turning toward Mary he said, “No. No it’s not.”

To be continued…

The Case Of The Missing Pipe part One

Last year I wrote a monthly article for an on line pipe smokers magazine called appropriately, Pipes Magazine.com. The articles I wrote were about pipes, tobacco and smoking. Then I pitched an idea for a series about a pipe smoking private eye. He would be an old fashioned detective in the modern world. They liked it and it turned into a five part story. I had fun with this, and I hope you will as well.

The Case Of The Missing Pipe, part One

Sam Barton was disgusted. Sitting at the desk in his small rented office on the second floor of a run down two story building in the ‘not so nice’ part of downtown, he could smell cigarette smoke wafting up the hallway. He hated cigarettes. Using his custom pipe tool, he stirred the Latakia tobacco in his pipe, repacked it and lit it with a stick match. The wonderful aroma filled the room, effectively killing the cigarette smell. The smoker was a woman. He could tell by her foot steps. Light but with purpose, she probably wore high heel pumps. The kind that make a women’s calves look good. Her steps were far enough apart to indicate someone tall. Another plus. As she approached, he made up his mind that whatever she wanted, he would turn her down. He couldn’t stand cigarettes.

Sam knew she was coming to see him because his was the only occupied office on the second floor. He reached out and switched off the desk lamp, the only light in the room. She stopped in front of his door, her shadow casting against the frosted glass window from the light in the hall. She dropped her cigarette on the floor and Sam watched through the space under the door as she stepped on it, grinding it out with her shoe. Classy, he thought, with a note of sarcasm. With three quick knocks on the door, she waited. Sam watched her shadow. She looked at her watch, looked behind her, down at her shoes and back at her watch. Nervous, he thought. Maybe in a hurry. Standing as quietly as he could, he slipped into his overcoat, put on his hat and opened the door, making to leave.

“Oh!” she said, surprised. “Someone is here.” She was tall and slim, dark haired. Wearing a dark coat to protect against the rain, which never seemed to stop in this city, he could tell little else about her. “I, um, I’m looking for Sam Barton.”

Tipping his hat Sam said, “Sorry ma’am, I’m closed for the night. If you come back tomorrow, during business hours, we could speak then.”

“Forgive me,” she said quietly. “I wasn’t able to get here any sooner.” Looking up at him with doe eyes she continued. “But I really need to speak with you. It’s a matter of some importance.”

Feeling a headache coming on he pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m sure it is ma’am but as I said, I’m closed. Maybe tomorrow.” Closing his office door he tried to move around her but she stepped up close to him. Reaching out with her hand she pretended to straighten his lapel.

Leaving her hand resting on his chest she said, “Please. I don’t often beg, but this is very important to me.”

Sam’s imagination got the best of him with the begging comment, and he turned to unlock the door. “Alright,” he said. “I guess I can spare a few minutes.” And just to make sure she didn’t think she was getting the upper hand on him he pointed to the cigarette butt on the floor and said, “Would you mind picking that up please.”

Back at his desk, the woman sat in a chair in front of it. She delicately dropped the cigarette butt into Sam’s ashtray. Picking up the ashtray, Sam emptied it in the trash. She smiled at that and asked, “Do you mind if I smoke?”

“As a matter of fact, I do.”

“But I can smell pipe tobacco. You must smoke a pipe,” she said, all her nervousness gone now.

“I do,” said Sam. “But I have a strong dislike of cigarettes. Sorry,” he said, without conveying the sentiment.

“I see,” she said. “Well, if you have a spare pipe, I’ll smoke with you.” The barest of smiles crossed Sam’s lips as he reached into his desk and took out a cheap pipe he had never smoked. Filling it with his Latakia blend and filling his own as well he handed her the spare and lit them both up. They smoked in silence for a few moments. She was a pretty woman, with the look of a 1930’s starlet. And she knew how to smoke a pipe. “I understand how precious your time must be, so I won’t keep you,”. I’ve had a break in at my house. Some things that are very important to me are missing and I’d like you to investigate.”

“Why not just call the police,” Sam asked.

“Well, I uh, I’d like this to stay out of the papers. You see my late husband was known to have some dealings that were not always, how should I say this? Not always on the up and up. Now that he’s gone and I’m on my own, I’d like to live a quiet life. The less media attention the better. My husband was Sylvester Gialone.” She held out her hand and said, “My name is Mary, by the way. Mary Gialone.” Sam new the name well enough. Sylvester Gialone was a gangster of the highest order. Very well connected in all the top crime families. He had been killed execution style about a year ago. Sam shook her hand and then drew on his pipe as he considered the situation. His first impulse at seeing her outside his door was to brush her off. He should have stuck with that plan. Messing around with crime families was not a good idea and he decided to tell her that and rush her out of his office.

Drawing on his his pipe again he said, “Look ma’am, I really can’t see…” As he said this, the door of his office burst open, shattering the window. Mary screamed and ducked the flying glass as Sam reached for his forty five in his shoulder holster. Three large men who Sam didn’t even hear coming down the hallway came through the door. They wore masks. One grabbed Mary by the arms and pulled her into a corner of the office as the other two went for Sam. One grabbed Sam’s pistol and bending it backward, pulled it cleanly out of his hand. The other punched Sam so hard in the forehead that he saw stars. Just before he passed out he heard one of them say, “You were told not to go to anyone!”

The first thing Sam noticed when he came around was that Mary was still with him. They were in a room with blank walls and nothing but a sofa, for furniture. “Something you forgot to mention?” he said, as he rubbed his head. The pain was intense and he began to think about his line of work. He wondered how many more hits to the head he could take.

“Uh, yes, well I’m sorry about this. I didn’t intend for anyone to get hurt.” Mary’s eyes were cast to the floor, and she wiped them with a tissue from her pocket. Sam had noticed the camera in the corner of the room and decided to make sure that whoever was watching knew that he wasn’t involved with this woman.

“Look ma’am, I don’t know what this is all about, but I don’t want any part of it. You didn’t tell me anything and I don’t want to know. I’d like to make it to tomorrow, if it’s all the same to you.”

“You’re right Mister Barton,” Mary sniffed. “You’re not involved, and I’ll do my best to make sure they know that.”

Resisting the urge to ask who ‘they’ were, Sam waited to see what would happen next. He didn’t have to wait long. Without any noise of someone approaching, the door opened and two of the large gentlemen from earlier, stepped inside. They were still wearing masks. Quickly moving toward Sam on the couch, they grabbed his arms, lifted him up and stuffed a black sack over his head. “Look guys,” Sam said. “I think you’ve got the wrong guy. I don’t know anything about whatever this is.” Neither of the big men said a word as they pulled him from the room. They walked on either side of him for a short distance and stopped momentarily to open a door. The door led to the outside. Sam smelled rain, and car exhaust. He heard a train whistle and the sounds of train wheels on tracks going very slowly. Traffic on a street not far away was fairly busy for late in the evening. The cars he heard were going faster than normal city traffic.

A car suddenly came close and stopped. A door opened and Sam was escorted into the seat. Doors slammed and the car began to move. Two turns to the left and then a quick one to the right and the car picked up speed. They were on the interstate. They drove for about ten minutes without anyone speaking when Sam felt the car move to the right and slow down. They came to a stop, turned right and drove for about two minutes. The car slowed again and came to a stop. The door opened and Sam was moved out to the sidewalk. The two men walked maybe fifty feet with him and then both of them gave him a hard shove forward. Tripping over something on the ground he fell to his knees and toppled over on his right side. The two men ran back to the car. Doors slammed and the car took off with squealing tires.

Sam lay for a minute without moving. He heard normal city noises like a car horn and a dog barking. Sitting up he pulled the bag from his head. He was in an alley, as he suspected. The rain had stopped but the pavement was still wet and water was seeping through his pants. Getting up Sam brushed himself off the best he could and ventured up the alley to the street. Not recognizing where he was, he walked few more blocks until he arrived at University Boulevard. Hailing a cab, he rode back to his office. After sweeping up the broken window glass, Sam sat back and lit his pipe. Puffing up some good clouds of smoke, he wondered just what the hell happened. He knew he should just forget about it. That idea could help him live a little longer. But could he do that? Could he forget what happened and move on. That was a good question.

To be continued…
private detective

Brave

A few weeks ago my oldest granddaughter Brenna, suggested that I write a story involving her and her sister and brothers. I thought it was a good idea and I’ve tried to weave their personalities into the story. Here go’s……

173
Kelsey had a surprise for the kids and asked them to play outside for awhile. As they were going out the back door she said, “Keep a close eye on Colton, okay?”

Brenna replied, “We will,” and out the door they went. In the back yard the kids played tag. Running around, trying to hide behind anything they could, they laughed and had a good time trying not to get tagged.

Later, Alaina said, “Let’s play Hide and Go Seek.”

“That sounds like fun,” Brenna said, “Adrian, You’re it!”

Adrian dropped to the ground and pouted. “Awww,” he said. “I don’t wanna be it!”

Brenna ran up to him and said, “C’mon Bee,” (which is his nickname) “You’re the best at it.”

“Yeah!” Adrian said, jumping up, “I’m the best!”

“We’ll all cover our eyes and you run and hide. I’ll count to fifty and then we’ll try to find you. C’mon Colton, cover your eyes.”

Colton, who was just one year old said,”Eyes.”

The kids covered their eyes and Adrian ran around looking for a place to hide. He couldn’t find anywhere so he stood in the middle of the back yard and covered his eyes and shouted, “Come find me!”

Looking to see where he was, Alaina walked up to him, put her hands on her hips, tilted her head to one side and said, “Adrian, you can’t hide like that.”

“Yes I can! Come find me,” he said, still covering his eyes.

Alaina took two steps to him, put her hands on his shoulders and said, “I found you.”

“Awww,” Adrian complained. “You found me right away.” He dropped to the ground and pouted.

Picking up Colton and coming over to sit by Adrian, Brenna told him, “That’s alright Bee, we’ll think of something else to play.”

Colton said, “Pay.”

While they were all sitting on the lawn wondering what to do next, Brenna noticed movement in the neighbors window. She watched for a moment and saw the movement again. “Didn’t mom say the neighbors went on vacation?” Brenna asked.

“Yes,” Alaina replied. “They went to Alaska.”

“Aka,” said Colton.

“You guys wait here,” Brenna said. “I’ll be right back.” Brenna ran quickly down the hill and leaned her back against the neighbor’s house. She turned and looked in the window. Inside she saw two people, a man and a woman. They were dressed in dark clothes and the man was putting a handful of jewelry into a bag. Oh my gosh, she thought. Those people are robbing the neighbors. Running back up the hill to the kids, she dropped to the ground. “Someone’s robbing the neighbor’s house,” she panted. “We’ve got to do something about this. Adrian, run in the house and tell mom to call the cops. Tell her someone is robbing the neighbor’s house.”

“Awww, why do I have to go?” Adrian pouted.

“Because you’re the fastest, Bee. You can do it better than anyone.”

“Yeah, I’m the fastest!” he said, jumping up and running for the house.

Inside, Kelsey was just taking the first pan of her surprise out of the oven. Chocolate Chip Cookies. She put them on the table to cool. Adrian came bursting through the door. “What are you doing in here?” Kelsey asked.

“Um…I…ah…Oh! Brenna said, call the cops.”

“What?” Kelsey asked. “What game are you guys playing?”

“Uh…she said somebody’s robbing the neighbor’s house. Can I have a cookie?”

Kelsey, wondering what was going on, walked to the window. Brenna, seeing her mom at the window, started motioning toward the neighbor’s house and put her hand to her ear, pantomiming making a phone call. Kelsey wasn’t sure what was happening but trusted her daughter’s instincts and picked up the phone. Adrian ran back out the door with a warm cookie before she could stop him.

Alaina said, “Hey, I want one of those,” seeing Adrian’s cookie.

“Not now,” Brenna said. “We have to do something to help. The cops may be too late.”

“Maybe we can scare them out of the house.”

“That’s a good idea Alaina,” Brenna said. “But how?”

“Let’s run around the house and make a bunch of noise. They’ll get scared and run away.”

Brenna, looking at the neighbor’s house, noticed a rope tied to an eye bolt near the back door. It was about eight inches off the ground. They used the rope to tie out their dog when they were home. “I have an idea. Alaina, you and Adrian run to the neighbor’s front door. Start banging on the door and shouting. Make lots of noise. We’ll see if we can scare them out the back door.”

“Well that was my idea,” Alaina said.

“I know, and it was a good one. Let’s try it.”

As Adrian stuffed the last of his cookie in his mouth, Alaina asked Brenna, “What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to try to trip them up with the dog’s rope when they come out the back door.” Picking Colton up and putting him in his backyard swing so he would be safe, Brenna said, “Okay, let’s do it.”

Adrian and Alaina ran for the front of the neighbor’s house. Brenna ran for the back. She grabbed the rope and pulling it across the doorway, wrapped it a couple of times around the base of a heavy table on the patio and then held on tight while hiding under the table. Alaina and Adrian started pounding on the front door. Alaina shouted, “Hey you robbers! The cops are coming! The cops are coming!” As soon as they started their noisemaking, Brenna could hear running feet in the house. They were coming toward her.

Out of the back door the robbers ran. The first one was the man. Catching his feet on the rope, he fell forward, sprawling on the patio. The woman, right behind him also tripped and fell on top of him. The man had hit his head hard on the patio and knocked himself out. The woman jumped up and ran towards the kid’s house. Jon had just come home from work and was getting out of his car. The woman robber was running right towards him. Alaina gave a shout. “Daddy, watch out!” Jon ducked out of the way just in time and sticking out his foot, he tripped the robber. She fell and hit the driveway.

Meanwhile, the police had arrived and as the woman robber was getting up a police man stopped her. Brenna showed the other policeman where the other robber was at the back of the house. He was just waking up. The two robbers were arrested and put in the back of the police car. The policemen had lots of questions and they and Kelsey and Jon were amazed at what the kids had done. The kids were told that they should have went in the house and let the police do the job, but Jon and Kelsey were very proud of what they accomplished.

Two weeks later, the police called to say that the robbers had confessed to a string of robberies in the neighborhood and the whole family was invited to come to the police station for an award ceremony.
When they arrived at the police station they found that the city council, the chief of police and the mayor were there. The room was full news reporters with cameras. The chief of police gave each of them a medal for bravery. Even little Colton got an award. The chief said, “You kids were amazing that day. While others might have run away, you kids did everything you could to stop a bad thing from happening. You should all be very proud of yourselves because you were very brave.”

Little Colton said, “Bave!” And everyone had a real good laugh.