Monday, April 1, 2019

Wanted: Dead or Deader - Finale




When McGill finally collected the cash, I headed over to their office. He locked the door behind me and opened a suitcase filled with bills. A soft whistle escaped my lips at the sight of all that dough. For a brief moment I was tempted, but the feeling passed. McGill zipped up the bag and handed it to me while he swore he’d acted as if it was business as usual when he amassed the ransom money. Most of Abner’s deals were cash transactions and he’d not raised any suspicions.

I’d rethought the whole setup and called a fellow detective to help. I’d hired him to babysit Dave McGill this evening until it was all over in case McGill had second thoughts about involving the police. I didn’t want to end up in jail for my part in the scam. My buddy arrived, and I introduced the two men.

McGill made no protest, but he leaned over and spoke in a low voice, “I checked you out, London. Hizzoner recommended you highly. He said you were trustworthy and discreet.”

So that’s why he trusted me. The personal issue I’d resolved for Mayor Daley a few years ago had paid off many times over. An intensively private person when it came to his family, the mayor didn’t want to involve any of his cronies or employees. So he hired an outsider (me) to take care of the problem. I’d solved his dilemma and kept my mouth shut which the mayor appreciated. In return, a few favors were thrown my way which I appreciated. With a smile on my lips, I hefted the suitcase and strode to my car.

****

It took more than an hour to drive to the Lincoln Avenue motel where Abner waited. I’d made sure to lose any tail that might’ve been following. Picking him up, we drove to Birmingham Harbor where he stashed the loot on his boat. I didn’t expect a double-cross since he’d written out a confession before I’d ever agreed to the plan (insurance). Instead, he played the part of kidnap victim perfectly when I reunited him with Dave McGill.

They kept the kidnapping quiet, so I never read about it in the newspapers. Abner and Renee divorced. The former Mrs. Carlyle’s settlement was much smaller than she’d originally expected since Abner’s fortune had been diminished by the half mil ransom. After the divorce was finalized, Abner retreated to recluse status. Ecstatic that we’d stopped Renee from cashing in on a huge payout, he coughed up a bonus of three thousand dollars for yours truly. And I promised Carlyle I’d never reveal his reprehensible scheme.

FOOTNOTE
November 1996
Did I feel guilty for my part in the scam? Nope. After all, if it wasn’t for my participation, Renee would be dead. Instead, she lived to marry againactually three more times. Renee possessed money, but I don’t think she ever achieved true happiness. I attended her funeral two months ago (for some reason, Elisabeth thought it my duty to attend). Sad to say, her brother and I were the only mourners.











Monday, March 18, 2019

Wanted - Dead or Deader - Part 4





With Abner safely tucked away in a sleazy motel on Lincoln Avenue, I reported back to my ex-wife and told her the ransom drop didn’t pan out. Nobody showed up, and there was no sign of her husband.

The lovely Renee wasn’t pleased. “They must’ve spotted you.”

“If they did, they saw no sign of their money and left. If you want him back alive, you’ll have to pay the ransom.”

Renee’s expression told me how she felt about that scenario which made me glad I’d forged a deal with her husband. Carlyle followed my plan and the next day another ransom letter arrived in the mail. This time it was delivered to Abner’s right hand man, Dave McGill. I’d planned to return to his place that day to guarantee my involvement in this caper, but he saved me the trip by rushing over to my office.

McGill confided he hadn’t believed my claims about his boss being kidnapped the other day. He’d thought Mrs. Carlyle was trying to pull a fast one. Now he demanded to know what I was going to do about the situation.

I recommended he take the note straight to the police. This horrified him. He pointed to the ransom demand and insisted the kidnappers would kill his boss if the authorities got involved.

That was great. I’d told Abner I’d bail immediately if the police were informed. The payoff wasn’t worth the risk; I had a wife and kid to think about.

McGill swore he’d make arrangements and gather together the half million.

“Can you raise that much dough?”

McGill assured me that Carlyle was a financial wizard, well worth twice that amount. I mentioned Renee and got a laugh. He claimed he wouldn’t need her cooperation. Abner’s assets were tied up in the business, and McGill didn’t need Carlyle’s wife’s agreement to pull money out. Smart man.

“Once Abner’s released, he’ll be able to rebuild his fortune. I’ve worked for him for seven years; the man’s a genius.”
Good to know. I revisited the option of police involvement. Satisfied that McGill was vehemently opposed to the idea, I let him leave my office to start assembling the payoff.

I kept in constant contact with McGill and Renee over the next couple of days. My ex wasn’t thrilled with the concept of parting with that amount of dough, but McGill was determined to buy Abner’s freedom. I had a cynical viewpoint on the matter. McGill’s motivation was easy to figure. If his boss died, McGill’s plum job disappeared. In contrast, Renee would be happier if the kidnappers were thwarted and Abner killed so she could inherit all his wealth.

So the only person financially affected by our ruse would be Renee. In case anyone ever wondered if my involvement was all about revenge—don’t forget, I’d saved her life. By foiling her husband’s plot to kill her and devising an alternate plan, Renee would live to snare hubby number six.


Monday, March 4, 2019

Wanted Dead or Deader - Part 3




I visited Carlyle’s favorite haunts. Turned out the place he hung out the most was his own. I paid a visit to his house (mansion) on Astor Street. The maid let me in (what a step up from the first home Renee and I shared—a third floor walk-up in Roger’s Park). Renee was in residence (now she thinks she’s the Queen?) and after a brief argument (first one I ever won), I searched the place from top to bottom but found no clues to Abner’s whereabouts.

****

With a lack of fresh ideas, I scoped out the kidnapper’s meeting point. I arrived three hours early in order to check the area and figure out my options. The designated spot was in the middle of a secluded, wooded forest preserve near Belmont and Cumberland. Daylight was fading fast, and I imagined how dark this place was going to get. Perfect spot (for the kidnappers—not so great for me). Dense trees filtered out what was left of the sun’s rays, and I was glad I’d brought my flashlight. If I picked a good place to hide and watch, maybe I could catch a license plate when they arrived.

****

Three hours later, I’d have killed for a cold beer. My sweat-soaked black turtle neck constricted my breathing in the humid night air. So far, I hadn’t caught a glimpse of anything but a family of deer. I was ready to call it a night, but I’d promised Renee I’d find her husband, so I stuck it out alone in the dark. Just when I was determined to call it quits, I heard a rustling about a hundred yards to my right. Keeping the man’s silhouette in view at all times, I circled around and sneaked up behind him.

I called his name. Abner Carlyle spun around and raised his hands at the sight of my gun. (I’d had a hunch when I’d spotted those big old jug ears and rotund build in the dim moonlight).

“Abner,” I said. “It’s time for a talk.”

****

Seemed shortly after the wedding, the wealthy recluse had a change of heart. He’d married Renee in a foolish, lonely moment and regretted it ever since. Carlyle was reluctant to divorce her, since he didn’t relish paying out a huge settlement. So the man had planned a fake abduction and plotted to kill his wife when she arrived with the ransom. His idea was to accuse his phony kidnappers of murder. The police would never catch the fabricated criminals, and Carlyle figured he’d be free and clear.

What he didn’t count on was the lovely Renee Carlyle hiring a detective. He’d led such a solitary life, he didn’t realize a woman might not go it alone (especially a woman like Renee who never did anything she could get someone else to do for her).

I had a lot of sympathy for the guy (after all, I’d been married to Renee once) and that’s why I contrived a new plot.










Monday, February 18, 2019

Wanted Dead or Deader - Part 2




Damned if Renee didn’t return just as I was thinking of closing up shop. Twice in one day. I liked it better when she pretended I didn’t exist. As her high heels clattered loudly on the floor, Jingo scrambled to his paws. He barked loud enough to wake the dead (no joke—I caught myself scanning the area for Abner just in case). My office was three hundred square feet of desk and dog. Renee sashayed in. She did her own scanning and frowned (I guess she’d expected me to have produced her husband already).

Opening her bag, Renee extracted an envelope. I read the contents and my eyebrows raised so high they touched my receding hairline. It was a ransom note cut from newspapers (very stereotypical). The kidnappers demanded a half million dollars for the safe return of one Abner Carlyle. Or else. They didn’t spell out what the “else” was, but I could guess. She steadfastly refused to call the cops.

After Renee swept out, I held the note up to Jingo’s nose to sniff. He released a great big doggy sneeze and rested his head on his paws. Seemed he was absent the day the obedience school trained them to follow a scent.

I was at a loss on how to proceed. She claimed she couldn’t get her hands on that much money. Renee wanted to fake paying the ransom. She spelled out a big scenario where I make the drop and follow the kidnappers back to their hideout and rescue dear old Abner. My ex-wife wanted me to play the hero—an unlikely role. I’m the first to admit that if she handed me a half million bucks, I’d be tempted to pack up my wife and kid (and Jingo) and board the first plane to Anywhere, USA. Maybe my ex wasn’t as stupid as I thought.

****

I drove home just in time for supper (Elisabeth was used to my erratic hours and never complained, but after Renee’s visits, I just wanted a normal evening). I decided not to tell Elisabeth the identity of my new client; she’d never say a word, but I knew she’d take a dim view of my involvement in Renee’s scheme. Marveling at the difference between my two wives, I considered myself a lucky, lucky man. Plucking the Hardy Boys book from Donny’s hands, we all sat down to eat. Then we watched a little bit of television before bedtime.

****

The following day, I ran around the city interviewing anyone I could find that knew Carlyle. Renee told me Abner was a quiet man with no real friends and this was verified when I talked to his business associates. It appeared that Abner Carlyle was a recluse. The three men I interviewed admitted they were surprised when Carlyle married Renee. He had no social life; no family or friends. Carlyle lived for his business deals. The trio hadn’t heard from Carlyle these last few days, but unless he had a deal in the works, that behavior was not unusual. Carlyle’s right hand man, Dave McGill, spouted a party line—Abner Carlyle was conducting business in a neighboring state. He expected to hear from him only if Carlyle closed a business deal.


Apparently, nobody but Renee realized that Abner had been kidnapped.


Monday, February 4, 2019

Wanted Dead or Deader - Part 1






A later case in Grandpa Walt’s career (June 1975); it was particularly intriguing to me when I learned the identity of the client…

WANTED: DEAD… OR DEADER

I knew she was trouble the minute I saw her. But I was mesmerized by those baby blues and the legs that never quit. Call me stupid; I married the ball-buster. Several miserable years later—divorce. It was either that or murder. I took the coward’s way out and she ended up with the house, the car and the bank account. At least I kept the dog; she kicked us both out.

The years hadn’t touched her looks. She cha cha’d into my downtown Chicago office and I felt a familiar tingle even though twenty years had passed. Two decades since I’d laid eyes on her and she had the audacity to imagine I’d drop everything I was doing to come to her rescue. (She’d divorced me soon after I opened my own detective agency—too lowbrow for the lady).  Now Renee claimed she’d misplaced her brand new hubby and demanded I find him. Fat chance. He must’ve been a faster learner than yours truly; the lucky stiff got her number after only four months. Took me four years.

God help me, I took the case. Business had been slow recently, and I had a current wife and kid to support. Not to mention my latest dog, Jingo. Pure bred basset hound (what other kind of dog is fit for a private eye? I had adopted Jingo five years ago after the death of Barnaby—the Boston Terrier that Renee and I had owned during our marriage). Before she waltzed out, Renee handed over a picture of the guy. Turned out he was hubby number five. (She’d tied Elizabeth Taylor in the marriage department. Renee must’ve made a killing with all the divorce settlements). So I took her case and her money. Call me a fool (in case you haven’t noticed, I call myself a lot of things); I agreed to look into the matter.

I spent all day checking out the man. Abner Jerome Carlyle. Sixty years old and ugly as sin. Alfred E. Neuman ears, sumo wrestler’s body and Marty Feldman eyes. (Look it up if you don’t get the references.) I bet he avoided mirrors like a vampire avoided garlic. She could only have married him for one reason—money (though personally I don’t think there’s enough dough in the world to face that mug across the breakfast table every morning). Ex-husbands one through four apparently hadn’t signed over enough assets to keep her in the lifestyle she’d become accustomed to.

Enter Abner Carlyle, real estate tycoon. Into everything you could imagine and then some. I did some digging and found out Abner’s net worth. Now I understood the real problem—Abner missing was worth zero payout to the new Mrs. Carlyle. Dead, Renee would never have to lift a finger ever again. And I do mean ever. She didn’t want me to find the man; she wanted me to find his body.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Serialization




I'm posting one of my short stories in serial form. 


The title is: Wanted - Dead or Deader

Here's the prologue:


These are the reports of a most interesting man—Walter London, Private Investigator. His was a one-man operation from start to finish, with a career that spanned four decades. When he passed away, there was no one to carry on, so the firm closed.

Grandma Elisabeth cared for him throughout his last illness. After he passed, she must’ve felt her duty was over because she joined him three months later.

We discovered all his case notes sealed in boxes in the basement when Dad and I cleared out the house. Grandpa had kept meticulous records. No dry details in his reports, no pesky record of times and locations. Instead he’d written in a sarcastic yet laid-back style. A very private person, Grandpa Walt never violated a client’s trust.

Reading through his reports, I learned a lot about my grandfather and decided to share some of the more tantalizing cases rather than have them lost forever. The players in these stories are either dead and gone; or I’ve changed their names.

Respectfully submitted,


Jane London Munroe

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A letter from Santa




I know it's January, but here's a Christmas poem...



Twas the night before Christmas and throughout the North Pole,
All the planning was done—everything under control.

I sat at the table, enjoying a warm, hearty stew,
Getting ready to brave the cold on my planned rendezvous.

When out by the barn, there arose such a clatter,
I pushed back from the table, to see what was the matter.

Three elves burst inside and yelled “Santa come quick.”
“Our security’s been breached by a raving lunatic!”

The countdown had started for my long journey ahead,
All but ruined with their words, “Prancer’s missing—presumed dead.”

Standing by the stove, Mrs. Claus frowned at an elf,
As I raced out the door to see for myself.

We passed by the sleigh, all loaded with gifts,
The GPS primed to avoid pesky snowdrifts.

We crunched through the blizzard to the side of the house,
Under the watchful eyes of my jolly, old spouse.

My eyes narrowed and focused on a terrifying scene,
The Christmas holiday ruined if I didn’t intervene.

I drank in the sight—my thoughts quite profane,
There in a huddle lay some butchered remains.

A hoof and some antlers all lying askew,
Amidst bloodspatter and gore—with nary a clue.

A headcount confirmed Prancer was nowhere in sight,
But by the looks of the bloodshed, he’d put up a helluva fight.

If I called 911, there’d be quite a delay,
I considered the situation with heightened dismay.

“Let’s keep it quiet,” the elves all protested,
“‘Cause you know the cops will have us arrested.”

Not fulfilling my duties would ruin my career,
So I adjusted the lineup with seven reindeer.

Guiding the sleigh in a trance, I sorted fact from fiction,
The aha! moment putting me in a bad position.

So I’m writing this letter to Attorney John Smith, Esquire,
Just in case something goes wrong and I should expire.

My lovely missus would be arrested if I shared what I knew,
I’d just figured out the special ingredient in her homemade stew!