Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Deadly Gamble Chapter One

Alexander Steele - The Deadly Gamble
(A short story)

Chapter #1
Deadly Love Shack

After a long, harsh winter Alexander Steele was anxious to re-open the rooftop lounge above his popular Philly nightclub.   Just as the workmen finished installing the large blue canopy Steele received a phone call from his friend Tara.  Her sobbing made it difficult for Steele to fully understand what was going on.  Tara was a tough reporter who didn't usually get frazzled.  Today Steele saw a different side of his feisty friend.  Her plea for help was one that Steele could not ignore.  Once he was able to calm her down Steele jotted down the address and headed to the stately mansion in Springfield Township just outside of Philadelphia

Steele had no idea what mystery awaited him beyond the tall black wrought iron gates leading up to the mansion.  At the time he didn't realize Tara’s call for help would lead him into a murder investigation with more twist and turns than a Philadelphia soft pretzel.   Steele inched his jag through the half dozen reporters and cameramen at the front gates.  Eager to get the scoop one of the men shouted “hey Steele what’s going on in there?” The over zealous reporters were kept at bay by two hefty, security guards wearing dark suits.  Steele smiled and shook his head.  “Hey fellas sorry I can't help you out on this one. You probably know as much as I do.”

Waiting patiently on the other side of the gate was Tara.  Once she motioned for the guards to let him through Steele drove the forty feet through the gates and on to the grounds.  He quickly got out of his jag but as he began walking towards her Tara rushed over, gave Steele a kiss on the cheek and held him tight.
Needing something to print in the evening papers the paparazzi seized the opportunity by snapping photos of their embrace.  Even with the cameras clicking away his presence seemed to have a calming effect on her. Steele could see police activity further up the long oval, brick driveway. 

“You mind telling me what’s going on Tara?”  The reporters were within earshot.  Tara gave them a look but didn't speak.  She got into Steele’s car and motioned for him to drive to the house.  As they rode towards the entrance to the main house Steele was able to get a better look the scene.  A black van with big white letter that read coroner was parked in between an old shed and the pool house.  Several uniformed police milled around outside the shed.   Three Police cars were parked next to a silver Rolls Royce, a red Ferrari and two other expensive cars in front of the mansion.  Steele parked next to a brown Lamborghini, got out and opened the door for Tara who was now more talkative.  She pointed in the direction of the old, weather beaten, shed.

“Earlier this afternoon my Aunt Melissa and Sam the pool boy were found murdered.  The police think Uncle Kevin killed them but I know he’s innocent.  I need you to prove it.  I don't have a lot of money Steele but I will borrow it if I have to.  As a reporter I've covered a lot of murder cases but this one is different, it’s tailor made for you.”

Steele was intrigued by her comment.  “What do you mean tailor made for me?”  Tara wrapped her arm around his and began leading him down the driveway to the shed as she began to explain.  “The door was locked from the inside and there were no footprints outside.  It’s a deadbolt lock Steele. There’s only one window and one door to the shed."  Tara could tell from Steele’s expression that she had gotten his attention.

Everyone who knew Steele knows he loves a good mystery and the best way to draw him out of retirement was to hand him a big, juicy, murder mystery to solve.  Like a fish on a hook Tara slowly reeled him in.  This was not just a murder but a double murder involving infidelity, wealth and mystery.

As they reached the old, gray shed the coroner and his assistant rolled the silver gurney over to the back of the van. Tara introduced Steele to police Chief Patterson.  "This is Alexander Steele a private detective I hired to work on the case."
The three walked over to the black body bag.  Steele motioned to the corpse as he looked over at the chief “do you mind?” Patterson gave him the nod to view the corpse.   

Steele gently zipped back the bag to take a look at the first victim.  The scantily clad Mrs. Matthews wore only a black bra and panties. Steele was careful not to touch the body.  He was surprised at how young she was.  She looked peaceful, there didn't appear to be any strangulation marks.  From his initial once over he could see no signs of blood or skin under the fingertips.   He gave the body a quick top to bottom look.  No stab or gunshot wounds or blunt force markings were visible from the front.

He turned to the Chef.  “Who discovered the bodies?” The chef turned on his Ipad and scanned his notes.  "Err that would be Mr. Matthews sister Kitty.  According to her Mrs. Matthews was supposed to sign for the delivery of an expensive gift for her brother.  Apparently he has a birthday coming up and likes collecting rare guns.  She got in late so she asked her sister in law to sign.  When the maid couldn't locate her she woke Kitty to sign for the package.  Afterwards Kitty went looking for Mrs. Matthews and found her here.  She said she could see the two of them through the large crack in the old door frame.  She knocked and called out to them and when there was no response she knew there was something amiss.”
Steele listened intently, nodded occasionally and waited until the chief was through before asking his next question.
“What was the cause of death?”  The Chief hunched his shoulders and waved his arms.  “Ya got me Mr. Steele.  They weren't shot, stabbed, strangled or bludgeoned to death.   We'll just have to wait and see what the coroner comes up with. “

Steele put on a pair of gloves, ducked under the yellow crime scene tape and entered the shed.  Using his camera phone he took photos of everything including the pool boy whose nude body was still lying on the blue, inflatable bed in the corner.  One of Steele’s least favorite jobs while working a case was picking through trash.  He carefully laid out the contents of the trash can on top of the workbench. 

One can of Franks black cherry wishniak soda
Eight Pennsylvania Lottery tickets
One empty bottle of Jim beam bourbon
One racing form
Four condom wrappers

Like everyone else Steele was intrigued by how someone entered the shed, committed the murders and left with the door being locked from the inside.  It rained the night before. If they had entered through the window there would have been footprints on the wet ground below the window. 

Steele was told that police broke the lock to gain entry to the building. Under normal circumstances the old work shed would not be locked but when the wife hooks up with the pool boy locks are a necessity.  When Steele examined the area outside the shed window. On the side of the building he noticed fresh, faint scraping on the bottom of the windowsill.  The window was closed but not locked.  Last nights rain had left much of the grounds soft and muddy.  The seasoned detective was baffled by the absence of footprints.

Once he was satisfied he had the information he needed Steele rejoined Tara on the other side of the tape.  
Tara looked hopeful, “What did you find Steele?  Anything that could help clear my Uncle?”  Steele ignored the question.  He had a few of his own questions.

“Your Uncle made millions from his internet software company.  His face has been splashed all over the papers for years.   His wife has to be as least twenty years younger.  It must take a large staff to run a place this size.  Why do the police believe your Uncle offed his wife and why haven't you shown any sympathy for your deceased aunt?"

Tara’s hopeful look turned to one of bitterness.  She scoffed and briefly looked at the sky before answering the questions.

“My aunt was a slutty, gold digging, whore.  She never gave a damn about my Uncle and she certainly didn't love him.”  Steele waited for an answer to his first question.  When it became obvious that Tara wasn't about to give one without some prodding Steele looked at Tara and waited patiently until she reluctantly continued.  

“Come on Steele, you owe me.  I saved your life in the Bahamas” Steele waved his hand.  “Whoa, I've already decided to take the case but I need you to be straight with me baby girl.  I need to know what the hell I'm getting myself into.”

Tara explained how two years ago her Uncle Kevin caught his wife in bed with another man. He shot the man but he survived. The incident was covered up.  "It’s a small township; my uncle donates heavily to a lot of local organizations including the homeless shelter and the Police and Firefighters fund.  It took a little persuading and a lot of cash for my aunt’s lover not to press charges.  The revised story was that he was a house guest that wandered into the dimly lit bedroom and that Uncle Kevin though he was a bugler.   After the shooting he vowed to kill her if he ever caught her with another man."

Steele shook his head and looked at his cell phone.   “It doesn't look good Tara.  Your uncle sure as hell had motive and if his story about being at a meeting this morning doesn't hold up then he also had opportunity.”

Steele and Tara started walking back to the house. “Okay, if your Uncle didn’t murder those two then who else could have done it?”
Tara laughed mocking at Steele.  “Anyone, everyone, everybody who lives or works here had motive, the maid, the cook, the groundskeeper, the driver, even my aunt. For a year and a half Melissa had been pressuring my uncle to move to Miami.  Well he finally caved last week.  They spent the entire weekend house hunting in Coconut Grove and Coral Gables.
The staff is freaking out and they aren't the only ones.  Aunt Kitty was born and raised in Philly, all her friends are here.  There’s no way she’s gonna move, nobody wants to move.  With Melissa dead I’m sure the move will be called off and everybody’s job is safe.  I wouldn't be surprised if the staff got together and threw a party.  They hated her more than I did so it’s a win, win for everybody here……well except the pool boy.  It wasn't always that way, she use to get along with most of them especially the cook, she even use to give some of her old clothes to the maid.”

Steele and Tara passed the two golden pillars with white globes on the steps leading to the front doors.  They ran into Kevin Matthews and his attorney.  Once Tara made the introductions Steele offered his condolences.

Tara gave her uncle a hug. “How are you holding up Uncle Kevin?"  He thought for a moment then looked out towards the shed.  “Well Tara, to be honest I’m conflicted.  There’s only one reason why someone would put a bed in a shed and lock the door.”  Clearly he had not visited the crime scene and seen the bodies. He turned to Steele.  “You don’t need to be a detective to figure that part out.”

Matthews gave Steele carte blanche.  “Mr. Steele you have my full cooperation.  Feel free to question all of my staff.  You have full access to the entire property, nothing is off limits.  If I can help in any way just say the word.”  Mr. Matthews turned his attention to his niece.  “I wouldn't dream of burdening my niece with paying for your services.  Once you have completed your investigation send me the bill. 

I have been asked to go down to the station and make a statement.  I have no idea how long this is going to take.  I’ll check in with you later.”

Steele was taken aback by Matthews take charge attitude.  It was as if he didn't know that he was the number one suspect.  After Matthews left Steele reminded Tara that her uncle was under suspicion and that she, not her uncle was his client.   Tara led Steele into the study on the right side of the main hall.

“Well Tara I have to admit I'm really curious how the killer got in the shed without leaving any footprints.”  Tara watched as Steele took a seat behind a polished cherry wood desk.  “Aren't you forgetting something Steele?  Aren't you the least bit curious about how they were murdered?”  Steele calmly shook his head as he leaned back in the brown leather chair.  “That’s not a mystery to me anymore.  I know how they were murdered.”

Alexander Steele Murder Mystery Trilogy
Author Larry J
Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.

The Alexander Steele Murder Mystery series consist of the first three short stories set in Philadelphia. Philly native Lawrence Johnson aka Larry J. takes you into Philly's neighborhoods by way of his fictional,suave,detective Alexander Steele. The semi retired PI is the proud owner of the Mount Airy hot spot known as the Inner Sanctum. Steele has a problem. He just can't seem to put his past life of crime solving behind him. A seemly endless stream of new clients come to his club each with tempting new cases for the ever inquisitive private investigator.
Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.


  1. Pretty good looking forward to chapter 2

  2. Want more clues? Each week I will post a new mini trailer. It's a summary but you may find something you have overlooked.

  3. I know I know am I allowed to say? Lol

  4. Decent! I already have the movie running in my head! Very well written and as baffled as I am I think I have a few answers

  5. New chapter along with new trailer Wednesday.