The Tarot Card Mystery part One


As I get older I find myself interested in things I’ve never considered before. I’ve decided to learn tarot reading. I’ve started to do some studying and found some fascinating things. A lot of people believe tarot is just fortune telling but I’ve found different. Each of the cards in the deck have meaning for the one being read for. Giving insight to the past, present and future they help one see how things have been, how they are, and with changes, how they could be better. I’ll write about it more when I know more. In the mean time, I’ve started a new Sam Barton Private Eye story. Enjoy!


Sam Barton in, The Tarot Card Mystery part One

As Sam entered the dimly lit shop the first thing he noticed was the incense. A dark smell that conveyed mystery and went well with the candle lit atmosphere. Pushing open the door triggered a bell somewhere in the further reaches of the store. The shop of Madame DuPree, a local psychic, had been in the neighborhood for as long as he could remember. Never having met her however, there was always talk. A mysterious woman, Madame DuPree was rumored to be very old and only half baked. She read fortunes with a crystal ball or tarot cards, sold incense and other esoteric things used for who knew what. No one could remember ever seeing her outside the shop. While waiting for someone to appear Sam looked around. Stepping up to a shelf along one wall he found plastic packages of dried chicken’s feet. He was about to turn and walk out when a man entered through a curtain on the back wall.

The man was large. About six feet four wearing a tight black shirt that showed a lot of rippling muscle underneath. With clean shaven large jowls and short stubby fingers, the man wore a bowler hat. He stood and stared at Sam. After about thirty seconds of this Sam finally said, “I’m here to see Madame DuPree.” The man turned slowly and went back through the curtain. After leaving Sam alone in the shop again he started to wonder what he was getting himself into. Sam wondered that a lot. Shortly the big man returned and held the curtain open. Pressing his arm to his left side Sam felt the reassuring pressure of his 45 in its shoulder holster. Ducking and walking through the curtain he found himself in a hallway. Mr. Bowler passed him and walked to a door a few steps along. Opening the door he gestured for Sam to enter. The big man did not seem menacing but his not speaking was unnerving. Sam entered the room.

It was small, about ten by ten, lit by candles with oriental carpets hanging from the walls. Opposite the door was a woman seated at a small table, presumably Madame DuPree. Between her teeth she held a stubby tobacco pipe which she puffed enthusiastically. In her hand was a pack of tarot cards with three of them on the table, face down. With her back to the wall there was an empty chair opposite her. “Sit,” she said. Uncomfortable with sitting with his back to the door, Sam hesitated. “You need not worry,” she said. “You are safe here. Michael will let no one enter.”

“What about Michael?” Sam asked.

“He will not enter unless I am in distress.”

“Your weapon is of little use here. As I said, you are safe.” She could have guessed about the 45 and about Sam’s unwillingness to sit with his back to the door or she could be psychic. Sam thought she guessed.

After sitting down Sam said, “I got your message. You wanted to see me about a problem?” He couldn’t tell how old she was. She seemed ancient and at the same time she appeared not so old. Her skin was very dark and her eyes shown with extreme clarity. She wore a loose fitting blouse gathered at the neckline and what appeared to be about twenty pounds of necklaces and bracelets on both arms. They jingled and flashed in the candle light. Long, red painted fingernails and thin bony fingers held the tarot deck. Her other hand played across the cards lying on the table.

Motioning to the cards on the table she asked, “Would you like a reading? These are for you after all. Just a simple three card read.”

“No offense Madame, but I really don’t believe in this.”

“Belief means nothing,” she quipped, her voice thin and ragged. “A man may choose to believe or disbelieve anything. It does not make a thing so or not so. Shall we start?”

Tapping the card to Sam’s right she flipped it over. “This card represents your past. It is the High Priestess. It can symbolize virginity, which by no means applies to you.” She looked at him over the rims of her wire framed glasses. “It can show a strong feminine influence for a man or represent a very important women in your life. Perhaps one you lost?” Sam’s thoughts drifted to Scarlet. He sometimes wished they had still been together. “It also shows that you should rely on your instincts.” Flipping over the middle card she smiled slightly. “This represents the present. The Three of Cups. Celebration, happiness. Chance meetings, love affairs and flirtations. Kind of follows the first card eh?”

Puffing strongly on her pipe and tapping the last card she said, “And the future.” Turning over card she said almost under her breath, “Death. I wasn’t expecting that.” Looking up at him she said, “Oh it can mean death, that is for certain. But in your case, hmm, I think not. Getting rid of the old, as in the death of bad habits or old ways making room for something new. It can mean a harsh fate, not necessarily death but something equally hard to deal with. Most certainly a major change.” Sam sat back in his chair. He didn’t believe in this mumbo jumbo but he wasn’t happy about the death card all the same.

“So, you are wondering why I sent you a message.” It was a statement, not a question. “I am in need of the services of a private investigator. I do not want police or media attention. Bad for business, you understand.” She hesitated. “I have a niece. A strong willed girl, my late brother’s daughter. He asked me to look after her when he passed. She is, how should I say, promiscuous. She likes the drink, she likes parties. Hollywood would suit her better but she is here, with me. She is missing. Three days now, I have not seen her. I am worried, you understand. With her, loose ways I am afraid she could be in trouble. I would like her to be found before something bad happens.”

“No offense Madame,” Sam said as he took out his pipe and began to fill it, “But you’re the psychic. Can’t you find her?”

“There are dark forces at work here,” she said gravely. “Even to one such as myself, not everything is revealed. Something is blocking my sight. This has never happened before. I am afraid.” Her hands fidgeted on the table and she suddenly dropped them into her lap. She hung her head and sobbed. Pulling a kerchief from her sleeve she wiped her eyes. “Will you help me? I can give you some assistance. There are some things I have seen. And Michael will be at your disposal.”

“Yeah, about Michael, does he talk?” Sam asked as he lit his pipe.

“When the need arises.”

Sam sighed. “Alright,” he said. “I’ll look around, see what I can find. There are people I can talk to. People that know things. Why don’t you tell me what you know and I’ll get started. And I don’t think I’ll be needing Michael.”

“You may be surprised at what you will need,” she said.

When Sam left the shop it was late. Walking back to his office his shoes were loud on the hard pavement. This was his world, the city at night. He’d always been the most comfortable at night and alone. And sometimes, with a little company. Before he left her, Madame DuPree told him that she had a vision of a ship in the harbor. An old ship, maybe painted red that could be connected with her niece. She warned him to be careful. There was something about the ship she said, that could be dangerous. As he was about to leave she said, “Take this with you.” She handed him the Death card. “To remind you to be careful, and for luck. My niece’s name is Christiana Maria DuPree. As I told you, she is, loose. And very beautiful. From your reading I gather what kind of man you must be. I do not disapprove but it would be most unfortunate if there were any how should I say, entanglements between Christiana and yourself. You understand? Unfortunate.”

The kind of man I am? he thought. What did she mean by that?

Stay tuned for part two of the exciting new Sam Barton mystery!


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.

Trucks And Blood

1969 Chevy C150

I’ve owned a few pickup trucks over the years but these days I drive a minivan. Embarrassing, I know, especially for a guy who likes to camp and fish and smoke a pipe but it goes like hell on the highway and pulls my boat or trailer with ease. All the seats in the back fold down into the floor which leaves almost as much room for hauling things as a truck bed and everything stays nice and dry. So a minivan it is. Besides, I owe so much money on it that I’ll have it paid off just in time to be buried in it.

I got my first truck in my early twenty’s. It was a 1969 Chevy C 150. It had a straight six engine with a three speed on the column manual transmission. The body was brown with cool moon hubcaps and relatively free of rust. The big bench seat could hold four people. I loved it. Riding down the road, sitting higher than all the cars I felt like a king on his throne. The very expansive hood sticking out in front of the windshield made me feel invincible. It had big solid steel bumpers, front and back. Once, while I was stopped at an intersection a station wagon rear ended me. All I felt was a little nudge. I got out and walked to the back to see this car’s grille laying all over the road while not even having a paint scratch on my nice white bumper. It was awesome. My truck had one funny little thing about it though. Every once in a while it would get stuck in second gear. I’d be driving along real nice, shift from first to second and then go to shift into third and the shift lever wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t go up to third, couldn’t downshift back to first. I had to push the clutch in, which just about took both legs to do, pull over and shut it off. The shift linkage ran down the steering column, through the firewall and linked up to the tranny under the hood. So through trial and error I finally figured out that I had to take a large screwdriver and place the blade between the two shift rods that ran down the steering column under the hood and give it a whack with a hammer. It busted them loose and then I could shift again. Fun times.

So one day I’m at home and my girlfriend is using a very large knife to cut the plastic wrap off of a ham. Plastic, shrink wrapped food is always so appetizing. Now when I was a kid, my dad taught me how to use a knife. A knife in my day was a tool, not a weapon. Boyscouts all carried them. I wasn’t a boyscout but my dad thought it was an important tool for a kid to use. He taught me how to use it properly and I’ve carried a pocket knife all my life. Some people never got the knife training. My girlfriend was one of them. She was cutting the ham plastic with the blade of the knife aiming right at her wrist. As I was about to say something the plastic cut through and the knife made a deep, long gash right across her wrist where the artery lies. As she stood there staring in disbelief, blood shot all over the ham and the counter, the knife clattered to the floor and I grabbed a rag. “Want to take a drive, dear?” was all I could think of to say. On the way to the emergency room the truck stuck in second gear and the hospital was on a hill. Uphill from my house. To this day I don’t know how I did it but I drove that truck the three miles to the hospital in second gear. I’m pretty sure I didn’t stop at any stop signs. We made it without her losing too much blood, got her sewed up, and after popping the truck out of second gear, we drove back home. We didn’t have ham for supper. As it turned out she survived her ordeal just fine but we ended up not staying together forever. I mean after all, she didn’t know how to use a knife.