Sophie continued to ask around town about the previous owners of her house. She then found out that about fifty years ago, a woman that lived in her house vanished without a trace. What is even worse is that she was nine months pregnant! She was still missing, and the mystery was never solved. Sophie wanted to find out even more about the house after she heard that unsettling news.
Sophie was told that they searched and searched for the missing woman years ago. They dragged all the local ponds and questioned everyone in the neighborhood. Her husband had passed a lie detector test, so he was dropped as a suspect. A search party of over one hundred people searched nonstop for the missing woman during a twenty-four hour period. The police were dumbfounded by the lack of evidence. There were no clues and the case eventually became a cold case. Even though the husband passed a lie detector test, many people still believed that the husband was responsible for the disappearance of his wife. For the first year after his wife's disappearance, he was under scrutiny from the whole town every time he left his house and was seen out and about the town.
Many years later, the husband was diagnosed with flesh-eating bacteria in his hands. The doctor believed that he got it from working in his garden. His doctor treated him for the bacteria, but it continued to get worse. The flesh-eating bacteria spread throughout his entire body, and it was literally eating him alive! He had a major stroke and not too long after that, he had a massive heart attack and died.
Other books in this genre:
A woman in Johannesburg returns home from a trip to Belgium. Her dark blue suitcase is mistaken for an extremely similar suitcase belonging to a man travelling to Botswana. Just before going to bed the woman, Aziza, opens the suitcase to find it is not hers, but sees on top a brown paper package containing a box of chocolates. She knows it is not her suitcase but she cannot resist opening the box and eating a chocolate.
Her body is found the following morning when she does not go to work having died from extreme cyanide poisoning.
The police realize that the suitcase has just come on a flight from London, and they trace the other suitcase, her suitcase, to the man in Botswana who traveled on the same flight as Aziza to Johannesburg. He is naturally concerned as he has just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and following a visit to an Ayurveda clinic in Edinburgh has just started on a course of treatment with apricot pits, which contain minute traces of cyanide, and in his briefcase he has a half kilo bags of apricot pits!
The police contact Scotland Yard in London, who realize that there may be some connection with the recent theft of cyanide from an agricultural company in Cambridge, with the cyanide eaten in chocolate by the woman in Johannesburg.
The following joint investigation produces several “Red herrings” principally from the players in a string quartette playing in several locations in the east of England, until eventually it is narrowed down to a family in Lincoln, when they learn who purchased the fatal box of chocolates, and then they find a partial fingerprint on the sealing cellophane. But they still cannot determine a motive for the murder, and their problem is how the fatal box of chocolates managed to get into the man’s suitcase when the cities of Cambridge and Lincoln are one hundred miles apart.
Alex and Oliver live in worlds, poles apart; new worlds shaped by a terrible world war and the emerging freedoms of the Sixties. A killer stalks, and five people are drawn into the intrigue surrounding a serial murderer; a series of events set in the Seventies, influenced by the past… a string of events—a daisy chain.
Daisy Chain; an erotic thriller from the masterly pen of Mark Montgomery.
Mystery dinner parties usually require guests to learn parts and risk getting embarrassed by their own bad acting. The worst might happen to a host if a guest assigned an important part simply does not show up. This book offers three different process-of-elimination games designed to be played by 2 – 4 players, 4 – 8 players, or a party of 41 to 57 players. The solution is different each time any of the games is played. Game pieces, game boards, and instructions are included for buyers to copy and print for use at their own party. Have more fun at your next fund-raiser, group pot-luck dinner, or simply play the games with friends and family at home.
Prologue The Little Louisiana Pageant, Whitfield Centre, Baton Rouge Timmy Donald waited to be introduced; he wasn’t nervous. Timmy was a round-faced cherub, kiss-curled and confident. A tiny robot programmed to perform, and at five, already a veteran. The MC gave him a big build-up. ‘From East Baton Rouge, a homeboy paying his tribute to one of the greatest entertainers of all time … Timmy Donald!’ The red velvet curtain parted, leaving Charlie Chaplin in the spotlight – lost, unsure and vulnerable. Timmy played it to a T, cocking his head to one side, leaning both hands on his stick. The face of a comic genius gazed out of the golden light. A single note gave him his key, and the spot followed the diminutive performer through a show of stagecraft beyond his years. A piano track, played without finesse, tinkled in the background. Timmy brought the walking stick into action in vintage Chaplinesque. He scrunched his shoulders and tipped his bowler, letting it run down his arm, a weak smile revealing the courage of the little tramp beset by cruel misfortune. He sang “Smile,” and the audience loved him. At the end of the song, he twirled, walked his “Charlie” walk and shuffled towards the back of the stage. The spotlight died, the curtains closed, the lights came up. Timmy’s father was pleased. All the hard work, the day after day rehearsals, had paid off. That trick with the hat had taken months to get right. Worth it, though. ‘You can’t put it out if you don’t put it in,’ Tom Donald reminded his son every chance he got. The old jazz musicians’ maxim about the value of practice appealed to him. Timmy’s performance shouted its truth. He was the winner for sure. Everybody said so.
‘We can’t find him.’ Claudine Charlton couldn’t believe it. It had been going so well. A good crowd. No hiccups. No tantrums. Even one or two who might have something. Not as good as the Chaplin kid but not bad. She watched Alec Adams giving out instructions. He’d been with her for years, from the very first contest, and she would be first to admit that when it came to stage-management, there was nobody better. They had been married once, a very long time ago. Claudine never let herself forget that he was a snake. Alec shook his head. ‘No sign.’ ‘Did you ask his parents?’ ‘His father thought we had him.’ In a room off to the side, the judges sat round a beat-up table, drinking coffee. Claudine didn’t knock. The interruption took them by surprise. ‘We have the final result, Claudine.’ ‘Who won?’ ‘The little boy.’ ‘Forget it. He’s out of the running. We need another decision and fast. Bump everybody on a place; that’ll give us a new winner. Stick any of them in third, it doesn’t matter. The cowgirl, the crowd liked her, she’ll do. OK? Two minutes.’ ‘But she was awful.’ ‘No.’ Claudine stared the objector down. ‘She was third.’ Alec met her behind the stage. ‘Cops are here. And the father. Somebody needs to speak to him.’ ‘What? Oh, yeah.’ She ran a hand through her hair in quiet desperation. ‘What do I tell him? What can I say?’ ‘Reassure him.’ ‘You do it. You speak to him.’ ‘It’s your show, and I’m busy. You’re the boss, remember?’ She hurried towards a guy in an ill-fitting suit – had to be a cop – talking to Timmy’s father. Uniforms covered the stage door; the front was already closed. ‘Mr Donald, Claudine Charlton.’ Timmy’s father was too upset to reply. She placed a comforting hand on his arm and spoke to the policeman. ‘I’m in charge. What do you need to know?’ ‘When did you notice the kid was missing?’ The policeman glanced at Tom Donald and walked-back his tactless question. ‘I mean, when did you notice Timmy was missing?’ ‘Twenty minutes ago. He was one of the last to go on. Once they’ve done their thing, the contestants stay in the dressing rooms. No wandering around until we announce the winners.’ ‘Sounds fine. So how come he’s gone?’ ‘Wish I knew.’ The detective gave an order to a sergeant. ‘Start interviewing. We needID, names and addresses. It’s going to be a long night.’ Claudine said, ‘Is there anything I can do?’ ‘Start looking.’ ‘What about the show?’ He didn’t answer her. ‘Shouldn’t we go with the final ceremony? Keep it normal’ ‘Good idea. Finish the thing. Nobody’s going home for a while.’ One hour later, a locked store cupboard in a back room was the only place that hadn’t been searched. The detective wasn’t prepared to wait for a key; he barked his instructions. ‘Break it open.’ Two uniforms forced the door. The wood frame cracked and splintered and gave under the pressure. In his career, the cop had come across plenty of bad stuff; that didn’t make it easier. The colour drained from his face, and he knew he’d been doing this shit for too many years: time to take the pension, kick back and go fishing. But for now, he was the officer in charge, so he made himself look at the horror guaranteed to keep him awake at night long after he’d turned in his gun and badge. Stuffed in at the back, on top of paint pots and dustsheets, was a broken Charlie Chaplin doll that used to be Timmy Donald. And so, it began.
Charles Carpenter, the author of the revered memoir Handcuffed does it again with Colors of Oppression.
The well written narrative explores the anatomy of the often hostile, racially divided prison environment. Charles Carpenter details the social and psychological ramifications of oppression, and describes the wisdom needed to navigate through a microcosm of hatred, racism, deception, and prison politics.
This book highlights various deceitful tactics employed by the correctional officers and inmates, thus giving the general public an unadulterated glimpse into the world within a world - prison.
Colors of Oppression is an educational tool for anyone interested in a career in the field of corrections. This book also raises the awareness level for those interested in analyzing the dynamics of prison life.
14A Nobfiddler's Lane
Thursday, August 22nd 1889
Bill Sikes to Doctor J. Watson:
Hand-delivered by Urchin
Deer Docter Watsen
I am sure yule forgiv this intrushon inter your privat life, but I have come upon a situashon what you might be abel ter help with (or indeed, your pal Mister Holmes). As you knowe, I have lately been on the strayt and narrow after being a bit of a robber fer most of my lyfe, so have been involvd in doin some cleanin fer the gover ment. In fact, I have been cleanin the basement in the monument what is knowne as Big Ben. An while doin so I have come inter contact with a gentleman by the name of Mister Hannay.
Anyway, I will get to the point of this letter: Mister Hannay is a writer what is interested in writin crim books and books about villins an that, an he was arskin me what I thought about stuff. Well, whil we was talkin, he arsked how many steps there was up to the tower, so I said there were about four undred.
He was a bit upset at this and said 'So, not thirty-nine, then?'
'No,' said I.
'Bugger,' said he.
Anyway, then he said he would have ter go and I watched him goin off down the streete. Then I appened ter notice that two surly-lookin fellers was followin him, so I hurried on down and catched up with him and took him inter a nearby pub.
The long and the short and the tall of it, Docter, is that Mister Hannay needs your help. I have enclosed the address at where he is stayin and have told him to expect you shortly.
I ope this were alright.
Saturday, August 24th 1889
To Sherlock Holmes Esq. from Doctor Watson
As you appear to be ignoring my messages, I have taken it upon myself to investigate the matter I brought to your attention the other day. Since our old pal Bill Sikes is unwilling to inveigle himself any further in the affair, I sent a telegram to 'The Uphill Gardener' (a public house of dubious repute) arranging to meet with Mr Hannay and attempt some sort of intervention.
When I arrived at the aforementioned hostelry last evening, I alighted from my Hansom in a flurry of excitement. I hasten to say the excitement was not of my doing, but created by a group of young apprentices in the midst of a series of strange tasks: some bigwig by the name of Lord Shagger had demanded they ascertain the cost of performing an appendectomy on the cheap. Identifying me as a physician by my Gladstone bag, the rabble pinned me to the wall and fired a barrage of questions regarding surgical cuts etc. I whipped out my trusty revolver, prompting the youths to back off, at which point they spotted that old fiend Dr Knox across the road (still on the run concerning that body-snatching business), and set off after him.
Finally free of the fray, I scurried into the public house and located the property owner. He glanced around nervously and bade me make haste to an upstairs room where I found our client, Richard Hannay.
'Where's Sherlock Holmes?' said he, with what I deduced to be an unhelpful degree of resentment.
I explained how Mr Holmes was engaged on another matter, but that I would do all I could to help. At this, he crumpled in a heap on the fireside rug and began to sob loudly. Feeling somewhat embarrassed at this show of unmanliness, I determined to explore my feminine side and knelt down beside him. Slipping an arm around his shoulder I must admit I found the experience of human contact rather comforting (as you know, Mrs Watson has been somewhat distant lately, following her fling with that Italian ice cream seller).
It transpires that Hannay cannot return to his own flat as one of his admirers is tormenting him with threats of libel etc. (I use this term loosely, since his melodramatic plots are completely ridiculous and unlikely to provoke anything other than utter boredom). However, I persuaded him that it was foolish to stay away from his own home and we should go there at once to face whoever (or whatever) awaits us.
In the end, I only managed to convince the man after showing him my trusty weapon. His eyes lit up on seeing it, and he begged me to let him touch it. I agreed to this, since I didn't see any harm in letting him feel its solid shaft and hair trigger, so long as the damn thing didn't go off in his hand!
Thus empowered, he became considerably animated and minutes later, we hailed a cab and set off for his apartment. Had I known what lurked in the shadows of that deadly spot, I might have taken more notice of Hannay's concerns.
To be continued
Diary of Doctor J. Watson
Flat 14, Windemere Mansions
Later the same day...
It was dark when Hannay and I arrived at his apartment. My companion’s initial enthusiasm (spurred by the knowledge of the gun in my pocket), had by this time dissipated somewhat. He began to display signs of anxiety; sweating profusely from every pore, an inability to get his key in the lock, visibly starting at the click of the light switch etc. I made myself useful by making a pot of tea while he hurried to the window and drew the curtains.
I busied myself in the kitchen and was a little disappointed to discover there were no Custard Creams. When I returned, Hannay had not moved from his position by the window.
'Here we are, old bean,' I said, handing him a mug of Darjeeling. 'This’ll perk you up.'
Holding the edge of the curtain open, he took the cup and stared at me for a moment, then his gaze moved back to the street outside. 'They’re back again, see?' He turned to me, a look of utter fright in his eyes. 'What the devil can they want?'
I shrugged and peered over his shoulder. In the street below, two rather iffy-looking men were standing by a telephone box, gazing up at the flat. I determined to put a brave face on it: 'Looks perfectly innocent to me – just a couple of chaps having a quiet smoke.'
Hannay shook his head. 'No, they’re after my plot.'
I blinked. 'Your what?'
'My plot,' said he. 'They want to steal The 39 Steps.'
I considered this for a long moment, debating the consequences of such a proposition. 'Sorry, what?'
He uttered a low moaning sound that hinted at his current mental state. 'Watson! Don’t you get it? It’s all about my book – The 39 Steps. They want to steal the plot.'
I began to experience a growing sensation of annoyance. 'What, you mean this isn’t about some international spy ring?'
'Spy ring? God no, it’s much, much worse.'
My blood ran cold. 'You mean - they’re writers?'
'Of course they’re bloody writers, damn it. Ever since I came up with a cracking good idea for my new novel, everyone’s been after it.'
I sighed. 'You’re an idiot. Sorry Hannay, but I’m going home.' I began to put on my socks and string vest. However, a knock at the door startled us both. 'Who the fuck’s that?'
'It’s them!' screamed Hannay, 'they’re going to kill me.'
I pulled on my trousers. 'Don’t be ridiculous. It’s probably just someone who’s lost their way and seeking directions.' I hastened to the door and pulled it open.
Standing before us was a moustachioed man wearing a frock coat. He leaned forward slightly and muttered, 'Ostovich.'
'What?' I said. But our visitor spake no more. He pitched forward and fell in a heap on the floor. And that’s when I noticed the knife in his back.
There was little need to check the man’s vital signs, but I went through the motions nevertheless. Given my companion’s somewhat heightened sense of terror, I decided to break the news to him as gently as possible:
'He’s snuffed it.'
'My God! I’m next!' Hannay’s hands flew to his face, cupping those rosy cheeks in a girlish manner that put me in mind of my own dear wife and the ‘swooning maiden’ act she sometimes adopts whenever I ask her to iron my longjohns.
'We must fetch Sherlock Holmes,' he cried, tugging at my lapel. 'Only he can save us.'
I brushed him aside. 'Don’t be such a nancy-boy, Hannay. Pull yourself together.' I checked through the dead man’s pockets and found two items: a picture postcard of some obscure Scottish village and a small white card displaying a silhouette of a man and the slogan ‘Scudder’s Marital Aids’. Slipping both articles into my pocket, I stood up. 'His name’s Scudder and judging from his business card I don’t believe him to be involved in creative writing. Now, Hannay, this is very important – the word he uttered before he fell…'
Hannay clenched his hands. 'I thought he was asking for the Post Office.'
I shook my head. 'No, that’s meaningless. I'm certain the word was ‘Ostovich’, which is obviously Russian. This man is a secret agent.'
'But what’s that got to do with me?'
I walked over to the window and retrieved my cup of tea. 'I think this has something to do with your writing, Hannay, but it’s also got something to do with spies.'
'But I don’t know anything about spying,' he wailed.
'Ah,' said I. 'And yet, in your recent novel ‘The Forger and the Gin-Juggler' you went into great detail about the process of creating false passports.'
'Oh, you read my books?' His manner changed abruptly and he began pawing at my chest like a lovesick pig.
'Indeed,' I muttered. I turned my face away lest he perceive my lying eyes. 'I didn’t like to say so before, but I’m rather fond of a good story and the depth of research that goes into your work might easily prompt a less intelligent casual reader to think you were involved in spying yourself.'
He shrugged. 'Actually, I make it all up, but I suppose it’s possible…'
'Not only possible, but highly likely. You said yourself someone was trying to steal your new novel.' I rubbed my chin the way I’ve seen Holmes do in such situations. 'I believe that the men who've been following you are enemy agents. Scudder here was obviously involved – perhaps he was a double agent. A triple agent, even.' I peeked through the curtains and noted with a grim nod that the two men at the phone box were still there. 'We have to leave.'
'And go where?'
At that precise moment in time I had no idea, but then a thought occurred to me. Pulling the postcard out of my pocket I studied the picture closely – it depicted a traditional Scottish village and the slogan ‘Frae Bonnie Scotland’. 'We need time to consider our next move,' I said, waving the card. 'We’ll catch the next train to Edinburgh and head for Newton Stewart – no-one will think of looking for us there.'
Only a vampire can solve these crimes--a vampire private eye named Samantha Moon...
Private investigator Samantha Moon is working undercover for the Fullerton Police Department’s new top-secret Vampire Crimes Special Unit (VCSU).
With the increasing number of supernatural-type crimes in and around Orange County, Detective Sherbet needs Samantha’s special talents to help solve and prosecute the real and growing threats to the citizens of Fullerton. People are dying—and some of them are already undead.
Sam’s first case for the VCSU threatens to expose her life as a vampire. When a 200-year-old mummified corpse turns up on the grounds of an Orange County mission with a note addressed to Sam, she needs to protect herself, as well as solve this case before something worse happens.
The more Sam digs into the case, the more evidence she discovers of the mission’s grisly history and scandalous past. But will there be a price to pay? What if the only way to save the people of the present from the people of the past would be to expose the truth to the public? A truth that could take down a mission that is the very foundation of a community.
To solve the mystery in the present, Samantha Moon must first solve the mystery of the past. It’s a good thing she’s a vampire. A very good thing. She’s going to need those skills…
MOON HUNT is April M. Reign's first novel in the Vampire Crimes Special Unit series, her series set within the licensed Vampire for Hire Kindle World created by J. R. Rain, bestselling paranormal mystery author.
Prison, a time in my life that I want to forget. So why am here now after all of these years? Even though the prison has long since gone…..
I remember the fear when I’d been caught, used as a scape goat while the others got away. I thought I was hard, hanging out with the older boys, doing the dirty work for them just so I could be part of the gang. Then when they got away with all of that money, with me as the look out, I didn’t even know they’d left me. There I was caught red handed with that family tied up in the bedroom terrified, and the kids screaming blue murder. I felt so guilty I wanted to cry, but that would have looked weak so I put on a stony face and let the police lead me away.
They never found the rest of them so it was all taken out on me. I didn’t deserve such a harsh sentence but they obviously decided they needed to blame somebody so I would do. I was a wreck, even thought about ending it at one point, probably would have in fact if it hadn’t been for my family. They visited me as often as they could and the fear and sadness I saw in mum’s eyes, the unconditional love that poured out of her even though I was now classed as criminal, saved me. I couldn’t have done that to her she’d have been destroyed so I forced myself to keep going, look to the future when I would eventually walk out of those gates a free man.
I look around now at this peaceful garden and remember when the innocent looking fences were topped with barbed wire, when the gate was fitted with a huge padlock…..and I didn’t have a key. When the dogs on the other side of the fence weren’t pets but angry vicious enemy’s trained to attack at the slightest sign of an attempted escape.
The alarm sensors that picked up the tiniest steps outside of the perimeter fence, screaming shrilly, alerting all. The times I was awakened in the night, with my heart pounding in my chest as I heard guards shouting…..gunfire popping, cries of anguish, then silence.
As I stand here the memories assaulting me, I notice the left over evidence of times gone by. Bullet holes in the fence. The bare soil where no grass grew, because of the constant trailing backwards and forwards of the guard dogs and their handlers.
Looking at this sad and quiet place a memory of the past that haunts me, I can see us now, myself and the other inmates huddled in a group in a corner of the prison yard sharing a sneaky cigarette. Always on the alert in case a warden came along.
I remember the patch of grass where the sun always shone, everyone battling to get to it first so they could soak it up and feel the warmth on their skin before being returned to the cold cells, shut in, locked away.
When I was eventually released and free of the confines of this place I swore I’d never go anywhere near again. I even left the county for a while. But then I heard it had been closed down. Rumour had it the guards were as dodgy as the prisoners and there weren’t enough honest ones to keep it open, how ironic is that?
However I knew the only way that I could believe it no longer existed was to see for myself. Now I have, the fear and weight that has always been on my shoulders is already lifting. I can finally push the memories aside sure in the knowledge that I’ll never have to go through that again. I’ve been on the straight and narrow ever since and I intend to stay that way.
With a sigh of pure relief, I turn my back on this outdoor space, now a place of tranquillity but once hiding so much sadness, and walk away. I’ve laid my demons to rest.
Not long before my mother died, she told me a story I’d never heard before. It was 1965, the year before she married my father. Spring had come to the Northeast nearly a season ahead of itself. By May, the fields rippled with thigh deep, green-gold grasses: sweet timothy, birdsfoot trefoil, clovers, reed canarygrass, ryegrass, and tall fescue. All the kids along Sweet Milk Road knew the species names; they were weaned on the sweat of haying, and my mother and her brother Morgan were no different.
It was a clear, bright Sunday morning—a perfect day for the first cut of the season. The fields around the farm were filled with the buzz and clang of sicklebar mowers and balers while my mother and Morgan stood toe-to-toe in a field of egg-yolk colored mustard blooms. They scrapped with one another on the strip of land between their farm and the Deitman property where no one could hear them. At first my mother laughed at her brother’s suggestion, like a late-comer for Sunday dinner who asks for the platter of fried chicken to be passed, only the plate is empty and the laughter trickles into awkward silence. She pleaded with Morgan, but he was of no mind to hear her. His decision, he claimed, was best for the family: She would marry Michael Deitman on her eighteenth birthday, and their families and land would be united, an isthmus to wealth and stability.
All of that changed when a bullet ripped through the leaves, shearing the air. Before either of them heard the sound of the report, it shattered Morgan’s breastbone and sprayed bright red blood onto my mother Lydia’s face and hair. Morgan looked at her, his eyes filled with terror, as he fell dead into the yellow mustard blossoms.
“Who did this?” I asked.
“Well.” She stammered, of course it was an accident. You have to know that, Joss. Someone was in the high birch grove shooting at the birds . . .”
I didn’t challenge her, but I wondered how she came to believe this. And who could have fired from nearly a quarter of a mile and struck down Morgan with such precision?
During those first three days before anyone else knew what had happened, my adrenaline-driven mother dragged Morgan’s body to the cottage in back of the farmhouse, and hid him in a macabre game of hide and seek—first in the closet, then under the stairwell to the cottage, and finally behind the old woodstove—all their favorite childhood hiding places. While the crows sat in the trees above and watched. On the third day she carried him to the river and washed him in the cool running water, then laid him in the tall grass.
Even when the coroner came to take him later that afternoon, she still refused to believe he was dead. She sat on the back porch all that summer rocking, worrying the floorboards for days that lingered into weeks. She did not cry or speak for months and only bathed in the river.
I think about this story as an April wind blows my red Mini Cooper along I-84 West, then tracks north along the Taconic Parkway. I try to distract myself, turning up the radio, flipping through the FM stations, but still I hear her voice.
“I had no one,” my mother told me. “My brother was the only one left, and then he was gone, too. I convinced myself that he was sitting on Heaven’s back porch. That if I waited on our rear balcony, he’d be back. I don’t know why, but I washed and ironed all of his pajamas and packed them in a suitcase. You do crazy things when you lose someone. I think that suitcase is still in one of the upstairs’ closets.”
She said she’d look for it but never did. I wonder if it’s still there. I try to push away these thoughts by doing what I always do: measure the day by road signs, or how many times I pass the same truck. An attachment from girlhood and those hopscotch counting rhymes from my school days—one-ery, two-ery, zigger-zoll, zan. . . . But on this morning I gauge my time, tapping out the minutes by heartbeat, dropped lanes, or the whirl of the car’s cozy heater and classic rock tunes buzzing in my heart like a lullaby.
It’s what my dad always did back when we all lived in the city—crank up the radio while he drove. He’d holler, “Hey, Paulie-girl! Get in the van.” With my mother scolding, “Paul! Her name is Joss Ellen—not ‘Paulie-girl!’ Not ‘Boy-o’ either!” But that name, ‘Paulie-girl,’ was lassoed around everything I knew myself to be. As a six year old, I was always ready for an adventure with my father, Big Paul.
We’d fly in that rattletrap van with the tunes blaring. He’d bring me to his tailor shop on East Forty Second between Lexington and Third. I’d jump out before the vehicle stopped, and ran through the jangling back door, hollering, “Liam, where are you?”
Liam Michaels was my father’s apprentice and an occasional guest at the farm. He’d drive upstate to play with my father’s jazz group that met there on Friday nights. I’d steal into the millhouse where they played to hear Liam’s melancholy Irish tunes flow across his fiddle strings. I used to beg him to bring his violin to the tailor shop, but he never would. He always said it wouldn’t be proper in a gent’s shop. I’d nod though I didn’t understand why, or what a ‘gents’ shop’ was.
“Liam!” I’d holler again.
“Is that you, Jossy?” he’d ask.
I could never answer fast enough. He’d scoop me up and lift me onto his shoulders, and then stand in front of the tall mirrors. I’d laugh and screech, terrified of being up so high, and hang onto his hair or squeeze my arms around his neck.
He’d cough and choke. “Tell the truth, girl! Are ya trying to kill me, or do you just like me that much?” He’d pull my hands away and grab me around my waist. “Oh my God!” he’d say. “Look at that two-headed thing in the mirror.
“It’s me, Liam,” I giggled, all the while reeling in woozy panic. My dark red curls, just like my mothers, bounced in the mirror images, and stared back at me with my father’s same grey eyes.
“There you are!” he’d point, with a goofy smile plastered across his face and a shock of black hair falling into his eyes. “How’s my girl? What are ya—on a ladder? Come down from there. I got a little bit of ribbon in my pocket I saved for ya.”
My father would barrel through the back door, yelling, “What’s going on in here? Paulie-girl, don’t bother the help!” He’d wink at me and disappear into his office.
He’d check his stock and special order sheets, and then we’d pile back into the van and charge off to the garment district. There my looming father, nearly six feet tall and wide in the shoulders, would haggle with some witless slob over the best gabardine. Daddy would reiterate his secret every time: Look them in the eye and smile, but walk away before you back down. Just be soft with every step. Once he’d get his price, he’d buy remnants of cerise or saffron taffeta to make my sister and me something for school. For Naomi, it would be a blouse with pearl buttons or a crinoline skirt, but for me he’d always fashion something man-tailored: a vest or jacket spit in my father’s image. “Stand still,” he’d say while he’d mark the fabric with chalk and pins that scratched my skin. Back then I never winced.
I’d turn slowly while my father stood, scrutinizing his work, commanding me to stop, or turn, or walk across the room as he’d watch the garment move in the swing of my arms. What emerged would be flawless: pale gray herringbone with pockets piped in apricot, a vivid lining at the pleat. In the mirror, I only saw my father’s eyes, his smile.
Back then, I thought I was special.
On Friday nights, we’d go to the Floridian on Flatbush Avenue for sweet fried smelts with lemony rémoulade sauce. The same diner he used to go to with his own Pops. “Here he comes,” some waitress named Dolores or Ronnie would shout above the din: “The dapper tailor dressed to the nines with his little one.” We’d sashay down the aisle between the tables, he in his striped shirt and red braces, a vest or jacket, shoe-shined and natty. Me in a replica—never a skirt or a bit of lace. Big Paul, square-jawed, with smoke-grey eyes that could darken instantly. would smile at the other diners as if they were his guests, always with the witty comments, tipping his fedora or porkpie, or whatever was perched on his head that evening.
We’d slip into a booth and order drinks: cherry soda for me and Cutty Sark straight up for Big Paul. Before the first sip, we’d clink our glasses while I stared in awe at the myth that was my father. And when our hot plates came out, we’d slather on that tart sauce and slide those sugary fish down our throats, barking like penguins for more. We were hungry. We were the boys out for all we could get.
Big Mo nodded his head slowly, his eyes rolling. “That’s right, Shooter, me old mucka,” he said. “You’ve finally got it... have a gold star.” He gave a mirthless chuckle, pausing before delivering the punch line with perfect comic timing. “Strange, though, because the way you’ve been acting I can only assume you believe my head buttons up the back.”
Everything was still, silent for a moment, the only sound that of laboured snorts coming from the prisoner, who was trying to clear the blood from his airwaves.
“Wh... what sh’you mean?” Shooter stuttered eventually.
“Ripping me off,” said Mo. “I know what you took away from that Holland Park raid. You owe me a lot more – a couple of grand, I reckon – and it’s a bloody cheek you’ve held out on me after I tipped you off to the opportunity. Don’t you know there’s a recession on? I got a wife and kid to feed, with another on the way. I’m sorry Shooter, truly. You always seemed a loyal soldier and a good mate, but now I’ve got to make an example of you. I can’t afford people thinking I’m a soft touch. Seems no one can be trusted these days. Handsome? Keep hold of him. Cozza, get Reg, would you?”
“Oh shit. No!” pleaded Shooter. “Not Reg. Look, I’ll make it up to you. Pay you extra, if that’s what you want. Do another job especially for you. It wasn’t on purpose, honest, I’d never do that to you, Mo, you know that. I must have miscalculated is all I can think. I’ve always been useless at maths...”
Chuck let out a whimper. He didn’t know what it was all about but he didn’t like seeing his daddy so cross. Big Mo looked at him and winked as if to say, “It’s all right son, none of this is real”. Chuck told himself what he was seeing was a magic trick, the red stuff on Shooter’s face not blood but tomato sauce, like he had at home on his chips.
HOURS later Chuck was in bed, crying himself to sleep. Big Mo told his wife the youngster was overtired. They had popped into the pub after their ‘bit of business’, just to take the edge off things, and Chuck had fallen asleep. Beryl Dolan looked at her husband.
“You’ve made him a part of it, haven’t you?” she said. “I asked you, even begged you, but you couldn’t help it. You had to ‘toughen him up’. I can only guess what you’ve been up to. You took that... thing... with you. I can see the blood. There’s a stain on my carpet and a trail on the tiles in the hall.”
Big Mo looked out from beneath his thick, black, caterpillar eyebrows, pushing his hand wearily through the bristles on his head. He didn’t feel like justifying his actions. It had been a long day. He had done what he had done, and in his mind he had made the right call. A row with the missus was the last thing he needed.
Lifting himself from his favourite armchair, Mo reached over and switched on the television, turning up the volume to dissuade his wife from carrying on with the conversation. A well-dressed man was standing in front of a weather map pointing at various areas of the country, but Mo wasn’t interested.
Bending down slowly, he picked up the three-foot length of wood he had propped beside him on the sofa. Noting the dark stains for the first time, he vowed to rub it down with a hot, damp cloth in the morning to get rid of any ‘evidence’. Shame. To his way of thinking it just added to the character, like when you had a champion conker as a kid and the more messed up it looked, the more scars it had, the more you knew it had done its job. Walking out through the sliding glass-partition doors, he swung the sawn-off curtain pole at his side, the spherical ball on the end reflecting the light. Resting it gently against the wall in the corner of the small parlour room, he patted it affectionately.
“Night, Reg,” he said.
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