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Monday, January 27, 2014

Excerpt from 'Gumshoe Goddess and the Catskill Caper' by S. McKane

*Mystery Adventure Humor 18+*


Naomi was wondering what was taking Robert so long, maybe an accident on the West Side Highway was holding him up.  The phone rang, she rushed to answer it, no, not Robert, it was Fifi, her mother.  Naomi got lost in conversation and forgot all about Robert being late while she described the details of their up-coming romantic honeymoon… the one they never had.  She expressed her excitement about retiring from waitressing and becoming a full time mom.  Life is good she told her mother. 


As Robert Parker unlocked and opened the door, the two strangers behind him quickly put their gloves on and pushed him into the apartment.  One man cuffed him from behind while the other stuffed foam in his mouth, then forcefully pulled up his tie and rammed that in.  It happened so quickly that the victim was barely able to grunt.  They beat him mercilessly until he passed out.  The intruders searched the apartment from top to bottom, tossing anything and everything that was in a closet, drawer, or cabinet onto the floor.  After slashing all the cushions on the couch, they cut the mattress open.  Their search didn’t reveal any documents or a computer.  When they couldn’t find what they were looking for, they thrust their arms up in the air and looked at each other questioningly.  Then, the taller man quickly left the building while the other man did a second sweep.  It looked like a tornado had slammed through the place.  A groan escaped from the victim.  A swift kick to the head silenced him.  The tall man returned with a recycled shopping bag that he quickly dropped on the floor.  The shorter man reached in and pulled out the plastic milk container filled with gasoline.  He had a sick grin on his face when he tossed the shopping bag on top of the motionless man.  He saturated both the man and the bag with gas and then poured a trail of gasoline to the gas stove in the kitchen.  The other man laughed and mumbled, “Got a match, buddy?”  

“Yeah, I got a match.  Watch this!”  He plucked the gas-soaked shopping bag off the victim and shoved it between the body and the door.  He dropped the match and was about to flee, but the match went out before it hit the floor.  “Damn,” he cursed and picked up the bag, lit one end, and quickly dropped it back on the floor.  They closed the door and left the building unnoticed.  The explosion rocked the neighborhood.  Glass and debris were propelled everywhere!  A woman screamed, “Not again!  Oh my god, it’s happening again!”  Smoke filled the street.


Her pace was swift and graceful.  Her heart was pounding.  Would she make it on time?

There’s no doubt about it; Lucky is a classic beauty with a demeanor of extraordinary confidence.  At forty-four, she doesn’t look a day older than thirty.  She attributes her youthful look to good genes, good shoes, and a cup of boiling hot water every night before bedtime.  Her curly red hair cascades softly to her shoulders and could use a trim.  Her passion… vintage fashion from the late 40s and early 50s, especially suits by “Adrian,” which she felt elevated her to that timeline.  Not to be out-done by the infamous, Imelda Marcos, Lucky’s fabulous collection of designer pumps, platform, and stiletto shoes over-fill her custom-made shelves with names like Delman, Prada, Jimmy Choo, and Valentino to name a few!  Not surprisingly, the oldest established designer shoemaker is her favorite, Delman, worn almost exclusively by Divas of the pulp-fiction era (1930-1950).  Lucky’s stiletto’s increase her stature to, a whopping five-foot-seven inches, which brings us to her favorite expression, “If the shoe fits, wear it!”  Oh, one more thing… she would never admit that she is a closeted, upscale consignment shopaholic and that hidden beneath her clothing is the undergarment Spanx, helping to keep her not so perfect figure—perfect.

Somewhere along the way, Lucky’s colleagues endeared her with the nickname Gumshoe Goddess because no matter where or no matter what, Lucky wears high-heels.  She sometimes wondered why they didn’t nickname her the Gumheel Goddess, but that thought would quickly diminish. After all, she could never be a heel… or could she?

As Lucky approached her friends in the restaurant, out of breath, but on time, they noticed something was different about her.  She didn’t seem to be with it.  Her eyes appeared glazed over, and the usual smile on her face was gone.  Instead, sadness seemed to overwhelm her.

“What’s up Lucky, you look like your best friend died?”  Gene said sympathetically.

“I’ve run into a stone wall on a case I’m working on.  I truly felt I was close to getting some answers and then wham, dead-end, roadblock.  End of story!  I’m about ready to throw in the towel on this one!”

Her friends couldn’t believe it, Lucky never gives up; she’s like a pit bull, one taste of a case and she latches on until the case is solved. 

“Throw in the towel?  What on-earth would make you give up?  What the hell’s going on?”  Gene blurted a little too loudly.

“Where’s that super sleuth that we know and love?”  Rifka winked.

“Well…” just then the waitress interrupted to take their orders.

“Hi, my name is Naomi.  I’ll be your waitress this afternoon.  Are you ready to place your order?” 

Gene ordered salmon, Lucky just coffee, and Rifka prime rib.  (No vegans at this table Lucky giggled to herself.)

Lucky was a big coffee drinker.  She could finish off two pots of coffee and still drink her hot cup of water before going to bed.  Her friends were insisting she eat something, but she couldn’t.  She was sick to her stomach at the thought of giving up a case.  What did she do wrong?  What did she miss?  Those thoughts kept spinning around in her head over, and over again.

“Can you tell us what’s going on?  Is there any way we can help you?”  Gene said as she shifted her weight towards the edge of her chair.

“I can’t get you guys involved.  Everywhere I go I have this feeling I’m being followed and I assure you it’s not paranoia.”

“Sounds serious,” Rifka interjected.

“Ladies, you know the walls have ears.  Let’s move into the conference room once you’ve finished your lunch.”

The rest of the conversation was light.  Her friends tried to put a smile on her face, but that wasn’t going to happen.  No one ordered dessert.  Instead, they asked if they could have coffee served in the conference room.  Lucky left a sizable tip for the waitress.

Naomi was totally unaware that the woman she was serving was working on the case that left her husband in chunky monkey pieces.  The newspaper said, Robert Parker was beaten and burned beyond recognition in one of the apartments he managed.  At first, they thought the badly burnt body was the tenant, Jay Barrett, a scientist who kept to himself.  It wasn’t until investigators discovered that the manager Robert Parker was reported missing the night of the fire that they put two-and-two together.  Dental records confirmed that it was Parker’s body and not the scientist tenant Jay Barrett. 

Naomi’s eyes were red from crying herself to sleep every night.  She thanked the women and put the large tip in her apron, her thoughts drifted to her husband again, she couldn’t believe he was dead.  She felt as if she’d entered the twilight zone.  Just six months ago, the Parkers were planning a trip to Europe.  They were going to leave the kids with her parents and go on the honeymoon that they never had.  Robert managed real estate, and his efforts were about to pay off.  Naomi gave notice to her boss at the Country Club.  Finally their dream honeymoon, upon their return, she would be a full time mom and fulfill her longing to spend more time with her children.  She loved being a mom and homemaker.  However, she had no choice; she had to work because Robert didn’t have any life insurance.  Naomi couldn’t wake up from the “real time” nightmare that impinged upon her well-intentioned plans.  Her life literally exploded into nothingness when Robert died, but she realized she had to be strong for her children, especially now.  The kids cried for their father every night, and she cried while her heart ached.  He was her soul mate.  How could such a horrible thing happen?  His pillow was the only thing that muffled her cries and still held his scent. 

It was difficult but Naomi was able to get through the day because of work, but the nights alone in their room were more than she could bear.  At times, the depression was so overwhelming that Naomi felt she couldn’t bear the pain any longer, and then she thought about her two little angels who needed her now more than ever.  She couldn’t leave them alone.  She had to go on. 

Earlier in the day, a customer suggested she see a grievance counselor.  Naomi definitely needed to talk to someone about her anger and depression.  It was getting worse.  Every night she sobbed the same words into her husband’s pillow, “Robert, oh Robert.  Why did you have to go to that apartment?  Why?  Why?  God damn you!”

“Miss, are you okay?” a customer said softly into the server’s ear.

“I’m fine I’ll, I’ll be right back.  I have something in my eye.” 

Naomi retreated to the ladies’ room, while Lucky’s friends pushed their chairs away from the table.

Heads turned as the three women stood up and headed for the conference room.  A man at the bar offered to buy them all a drink.  “One for the road ladies?” he sloppily slurred.

Gene immediately snapped, “You’ve got to be kidding?  You’re encouraging us to drink and drive!  Don’t you know that’s against the law?  What’s your name mister?  Show me your identification.” 

Just then Rifka gently grabbed her arm, “Gene, you’re off duty, relax.  He can see we’re heading for the conference room and not the exit, and besides he doesn’t know whether we have cars or not.”

“Yeah right, I’ll relax when jerks like that stop trying to intoxicate every woman they see just for some afternoon delight.”  She snarled.

Gene is a transplant from the Bronx accredited not only with a degree in forensics but in street smarts as well.  She’s a glutton for details and meticulously precise with everything she does.  Add to that, great organizational skills, and there you have it, the perfect “formula” for a forensic scientist.  Gene is truly a tough cookie on the outside; in a man’s world, you have to be, but a real softie on the inside.  And yes, her name is spelled correctly.  Sadly, she lost her only child Joshua to a mysterious accident in Portland, Oregon, last year.  She’s hoping to use her accumulated vacation time to go out there and investigate with Lucky, but neither can get away at this time.

And Lucky— well Lucky is a well-respected private eye completely enmeshed in her craft.  After receiving her degree in Criminal Justice from John Jay College, the Scott Farfel Agency hired her.  Scott, a veteran detective, taught Lucky everything she ever needed to know about sleuthing that wasn’t in a book.  After two years of honing her skills with Farfel, she decided to take the world by storm and open her own detective agency—Astral Investigations.  She really wanted to call it Stellar Investigations but that would place her too far back in the telephone directory.  Astral Investigations worked just fine.

Just as they entered the conference room, Gene’s cell phone rang.  She had to leave immediately.  There was a homicide; they needed her right away.  “Keep me posted,” Gene yelled.  Lucky sat at the head of the table with her friend by her side.  The room was massive and seemed to echo with every word spoken.  Three cups of coffee arrived.  The waiter looked questioningly at the two women.  Lucky said, “That’s ok, the third in our party had to leave suddenly.  Please leave the extra cup and the coffee pot.  Thanks.”

Her friend smiled at the waiter.  Lucky was a little apprehensive about discussing the events of the past three months even though she knew her friend could be trusted.  She told Rifka that her client was a manufacturer of lipstick, nail polish, and eyeliner, and that the missing person, a scientist, was on the brink of an exciting discovery when he disappeared.  Lucky started to relax. She sat back in the chair, crossed her legs, moved the hair out of her eyes, and began to enlighten Rifka about Jay Barrett.  She disclosed that Barrett was lead scientist for CAVU Cosmetics and worked for the company for sixteen years.  He was unmarried and completely devoted to his work.  Lucky spoke about Jay’s passion for research.  How he would stay in the lab for days on end when he felt close to discovering something he felt was important.  He never thought that he could achieve his dreams in a cosmetics lab at CAVU.  “Jay wanted to find…” she stopped short.  “Well let’s just say that he always imagined doing something spectacular for humankind.  Things didn’t work out quite that way until just about three months ago when he had a major breakthrough.  He discovered something that was going to revolutionize the cosmetic industry.”

Lucky went on to explain that the scientist disappeared shortly after his major breakthrough. 

The NYPD investigated the chilling murder of Robert Parker and the missing scientist Jay Barrett until the case went cold in June.  Shortly thereafter, CAVU Cosmetics hired Lucky to find their lead scientist.  She reiterated the inconsequential details disclosed to her by the powers that be at CAVU Cosmetics.  Rifka nodded with recognition about the case.  None of the newspapers mentioned the scientific break-through, nor was the story leaked to the media.  Lucky would love to tell her friend, but she adheres to a strict code of ethics, besides she also signed a confidentiality agreement.  Mum’s the word.  She asked her friend Rifka, the psychic, if she could sense anything about Jay Barrett.  Rifka couldn’t pick up a thing.  She suggested Lucky bring something personal of Jay’s to her place.  Now that was going to be a problem.  The contents of his apartment went up in smoke, so to speak.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have an office at CAVU.  He used the lab as his office, and Barrett didn’t keep any personal belongings there.  That’s why she didn’t call Rifka in on this before.  She had absolutely nothing to give her.  Rifka asked where Barrett’s family was from.  Lucky admitted that was another roadblock.  There was absolutely, positively, no evidence that he ever existed.  He didn’t even have a checking account.  He used to sign his checks over to Ann in accounting.  She took his check to the bank and gave Barrett cash.  Who is he or who was he?  Every lead led to a dead end!  Every co-worker and/or acquaintance knew very little about the scientist.  His acclaimed Alma Mater, Cornell University, had no record of his attending school there.  Yet his diploma hangs in the lab.  Just like the show “Without a Trace” Jay Barrett was gone.  There was nothing to prove he ever existed, and that’s what’s driving Lucky crazy.  No wonder the NYPD put the case in cold storage.  They hit the big FREEZE!  It seems Jay Barrett really didn’t exist.  She explained to Rifka how everyone in her office put in a great deal of time on this case doing research, which is not very exciting, and, as of  late, not very fruitful- clearly, the most challenging case of her career… so far.  Lucky was beginning to get a headache.  Maybe she should eat something, but she knew if she ate, she’d just give it back again.  Something was wrong with her.  If she lost any more weight, she’d disappear like Jay Barrett.  She looked at her watch.  It was almost one-thirty.  She had fifteen minutes to make her two o’clock appointment with Eli Sash and Amy Michaels, both key personnel from CAVU Cosmetics.  Rifka needed to get going as well.  They agreed to get together soon rather than wait another month.


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