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…


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.