Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Deadly Gamble Chapter Three Secrets

Chapter #3

Steele’s run-in with the mystery women was the first twist in the case.  From the very beginning everyone including Steele thought Mrs. Matthews was the intended target but now Steele wasn't so sure.  If Mr. Matthews didn’t murder his wife then maybe Sam the pool boy was the target, maybe Mrs. Matthews was just collateral damage.

The following morning Steele’s headache was gone but the dank, dreary weather had put the detective in a foul mood.  He stopped by the club to make sure everything on the rooftop lounge was in order.  Steele became more agitated when he noticed a discoloration on the floor of the rooftop lounge.

“Sugar Bear why are there black stains on the floor?”  Sugar Bear explained that the coating on the floor didn't dry in time for him to hang the new banner.   He put down newspaper so he could walk to the other side of the floor and hang the sign. 

Sugar Bear glanced down at the floor before reassuring his boss that the stains would not be a problem.  “Don’t worry boss after a couple of rain showers that will come right up.”

Sugar Bear handed Steele a small, white, plastic bag with a Wal-Mart logo. “Oh here’s the other spool of fishing line.  I used the first one for the sign.  Did you know you can’t see it in the dark?  It’s pretty cool.  It gives the illusion that the banner is hanging in mid air by itself.”  

Steele was not nearly as excited about the banner as Sugar Bear was.  There was work to be done at the club so Steele decided to keep the fishing line.  He tossed the bag on to the back seat of his car.  Steele’s cousin Johnny loved to fish.  He lived in South Philly so the next time he was in the neighborhood Steele would drop it off to him.

By the time Steele reached the entrance to the manor raindrops had begun to fall.  Mr. Matthews was upset.  He gathered the entire staff in the family room and waited for Steele before reading them the riot act.  With one foot on the floor Steele perched himself on the corner of a large oak desk a few feet behind Matthews.

“Thank you all for your support during this difficult time.  You will be pleased to know that I have canceled the move to Miami.”  The employees were put in an awkward position.  Clearly they were happy to hear the good news however any signs of jubilation would be construed as in bad taste, callousness or worse.  There was a murder on the loose and no one wanted the finger pointed in their direction.  There were a few brief smiles but definitely no high fives or cheering.  Mr. Matthews continued, “It has been brought to my attention that several of you are not cooperating with Mr. Steele’s investigation.  Let me make myself perfectly clear, I will do everything in my power to catch the bastard who murdered my wife.  Anyone who refuses to answer Mr. Steele’s questions will be terminated immediately.”

After Kevin Matthew’s speech Steele wasted no time interrogating staff members. Grounds keeper Pablo was first on Steele’s list.  He seemed defensive and a bit arrogant the other day. Steele wanted to see if he was hiding something. 

“So Pablo lets cut to the chase, where were you yesterday morning?  Pablo stroked his long dark mustache as he gave Steele the once over.  Pablo gave Steele a nasty looking
sneer as he slowly shook his head.  “I don’t like you. ¡váyase al demonio!”  Having spent time on a few cases down in Mexico Steele had no problem translating Pablo’s invitation for him to kiss a particular lower body part.  Steele’s response caught Pablo off guard.  At first he didn't realize Steele had understood what he had said.

“If I find out you killed those two it would be very unwise for you to go around making references to your ass when you get to the joint.  Now I’m gonna ask you again where the hell were you yesterday morning?”  Pablo kept his eyes on Steele.  Using his thumb he pointed to the woods beyond the pool house.  “I was clearing brush and taking down some old trees that fell during the storm.  You want proof, sorry I ain’t got none and I don’t need any you know why, because I didn’t have no reason to kill either of those two.  Me and the Misses barely spoke and most of us including Mr. Matthews thought the pool guy was gay which is fine with me but I just don’t go that way if you get my meaning.”

Steele gave Pablo a look of skepticism.  “Oh really, that’s not the way I heard it.  Word is that you owe her money, correction owed her money, a lot of money but now that she’s dead I guess you’re off the hook.  Funny how things work out sometimes isn't it?”

Pablo was angry he took a step closer and pointed a finger at Steele’s chest.  “You must have been talking to that old bastard in the kitchen.  One day he’ll get his.  Where I come from snitches get more than stitches, they get a dirt nap.” 

Realizing that he had let his anger get the better of him Pablo decided to back peddle.  “Well I’m not saying that I would be the one to do it but guys like that usually get what’s coming to them, you know what I mean?

Look detective dude I think he’s playing you.  I was going to keep my mouth shut but now that he’s pointing the finger at me well…..  While I was working in the woods I saw his ass sneaking around in the bushes and trees that morning.  Yeah I bet he didn't tell you that did he?  Him and that Kitty were whispering about something in the garden a few days ago.  It wouldn't surprise me if the two were in cahoots.”

With the information Steele got from Pablo he made a beeline to the kitchen.  If Pablo was telling the truth it would explain the mud on Antonio’s shoes.   Steele wondered why Antonio lied to him about the shoes, was it because it would place him near the murder scene or even worse, was Antonio the murder?

When Steele entered the kitchen Audrey the maid was making sandwiches but the cook was no where to be found.  According to Audrey, Antonio was on his daily run to the Italian market on 9th Street in South Philly.  Steele quizzed the maid about her whereabouts yesterday during the time of the murders.

Audrey was very polite; she spoke with a slight Spanish accent.  “Oh Mr. Steele after changing the linen, emptying the waste baskets and vacuuming I always take my lunch break.  I was in the east wing watching my soap opera’s.  Jessica is about to have Ryan’s baby but Phil is the real father and ………..”  Steele raised his hand and forced a smile.

“I’m sure the three of them will work it out but right now I have a double murder to solve.  Have you gone to the shed lately?  I noticed several lottery tickets in the trash can.”  Audrey nodded, “no Mr. Steele why would I go down there.  I do play the lottery and Sam and I were friends but I only take care of the house.”

There was no reason to talk to the chauffeur and since the cook was not on the premises Steele decided have a chat with Mr. Matthews' sister Kitty but she had already left for a poker tournament in Atlantic City

As Steele made his way to the car he remembered Audrey’s last words “Sam and I were friends” Where was the sadness, the sense of loss among her and the staff.  Everyone seemed so detached from the loss of the bosses’ wife and Sam the pool boy.  If Steele sensed anything from the suspects it was fear.  One of them was the killer.  Everyone in the house knew it; they also knew they could be next.

When Steele was about to leave the mansion he saw that the rain had stopped.  As he slid into the driver’s seat he noticed a blue pick up truck rounding the driveway.  Antonio had returned from the city with fresh vegetables and meats for tonight’s supper.  He also purchased a case of wine but Steele wondered how many if any of the bottles would make it to the dinner table.  Antonio got out of the truck, lowered the back door of the pick up and reached for the bag closest to him.  Both men grabbed bags and boxes.  They talked as they walked up the steps to the side entrance leading to the kitchen. As they put the groceries down on the kitchen table Steele noticed a note on the far end of the counter. 

Meet me at the South Street Spring Festival 11:00 am.

Steele pretended not to see the note but as Antonio began distributing the groceries into various bins inside the frig Steele questioned him about yesterday’s murders.  He didn't seem at all surprised when Steele confronted him about being spotted in the woods. 

“Well Mr. Steele I had to lie to you in order to protect a confidence.  You see I was given an opportunity to make some extra cash.  I was hired to keep tabs on Mrs. Matthews and Sam.”  Steele interrupted, “so you were paid to spy on Mrs. Matthews, your employer.  Who hired you?”  Antonio stopped and faced Steele.  He waived a celery bunch in Steele’s direction. 

“No, no Mr. Steele spying is such and unsavory term, I like to think of it as keeping tabs on her.”  Steele was not in the mood to play semantics.  He waived his hand in a circular motion urging the chef to continue.  “Yesterday before the murders I crept up the slope to snap a few more pictures.  I was there earlier but decided to go back figuring the more pictures I had the more I would be paid.  I could clearly see the two thought my camera lens but they were both asleep or at least at the time I thought they were.  When I heard the sirens and saw the ambulance and police headed for the front gate I panicked.  If they were dead the photos would be useless and if I were caught with them you can imagine the position I would have been in. 

Mr. Steele I can count on your discretion can’t I?”  Steele nodded, “of course you can but I’m gonna need those pictures.  Where are they?”  Antonio hunched his shoulders, “why, what good could they possibly do you now?  Everything I shot was before the murder?” 
It took some convincing but Antonio finally told Steele where to find the pictures.  “I buried the photo card that has the pictures on it.  It’s inside an Altoids mints tin.  I buried it at the base of the white ash tree but don’t expect me to go back up there.  I've already been spotted once so you’re on your own.”

Steele went straight to the old white ash tree, got down on his knees and began to dig but he wasn't alone.  The shadow of a man loomed on the ground just to his right.  The man was holding a shovel and before Steele could get on his feet the shovel wielding assailant swung directly at his head.  Steele quickly ducked to avoid the blow.  He extended his leg tripping the man as he rolled to the right causing his attacker to drop the shovel as he fell to the ground.  Steele jumped to his feet and pulled his Glock before the man could recover.  Steele looked slightly puzzled at the man who was now facing his gun barrel. 

“Pablo! What the hell is your problem?  I’m convinced you have a death wish.  You better talk fast and it better be good.”   Pablo got up slowly from the ground.  “Okay PI, you got me.  I thought you were digging up something valuable that Mrs. Matthews buried and I wanted to get to it before you did.”

Steele wasn't even close to believing his story.  Pablo’s behavior had been erratic from the beginning.  He was hiding something and Steele was determined to find out what it was.  Steele would soon learn that Pablo was right about one thing, there was something of value in the little tin box. 

Chapter #4

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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.

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The Legacy of Death from the Alexander Steele Murder Mystery Series


  1. Please click the links above to recommend this free short story to friends and family. Thank you

  2. It's a winning lottery ticket in the tin can? Was the wife having more than one affair? Did someone get jealous?

  3. The lottery ticket is not in the tin. Jealousy could have been the motive but we have to wait and see.