Saturday, October 11, 2014

Death on the Delaware - Excerpt

The KYW news radio theme played from her kitchen counter top radio while she put on her red plaid jacket, burgundy scarf with matching ear muffs.

At 6:00 a.m. she donned her knitted gray cap and headed outdoors to take her poodle Gladys for her daily walk along side the Delaware River.  The gray haired retiree had no idea that she would soon feel another chill, one that she would never forget.  As she walked along the frozen dirt path Gladys began to bark.  Mrs. Ferguson looked in the same direction as the little black dog.  Dawn was breaking.  It was difficult to see.  She squinted as she peered towards the water.  Gladys tugged on her lease causing her master to leave the path and tread closer to the river.

Mrs. Ferguson caught a glimpse of something floating in the murky water.  An old rotten log she though.  The elderly woman’s curiosity had gotten the better of her.  She inched closer to get a better look.   Seconds later Mrs. Ferguson screamed so loud she could have woke up the dead……….well almost. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Death on the Delaware Chapter One

An Alexander Steele Murder Mystery
By Larry J.

February in Philly is always cold, but the polar vortex had made it colder than usual.  The bone chilling deep freeze didn’t deter Mrs. Ferguson from her morning routine. 

The KYW news radio theme played from her kitchen counter top radio while she put on her red plaid jacket, burgundy scarf with matching ear muffs.

At 6:00 a.m. she donned her knitted gray cap and headed outdoors to take her poodle Gladys for her daily walk along side the Delaware River.  The gray haired retiree had no idea that she would soon feel another chill, one that she would never forget.  As she walked along the frozen dirt path Gladys began to bark.  Mrs. Ferguson looked in the same direction as the little black dog.  Dawn was breaking.  It was difficult to see.  She squinted as she peered towards the water.  Gladys tugged on her lease causing her master to leave the path and tread closer to the river.

Mrs. Ferguson caught a glimpse of something floating in the murky water.  An old rotten log she though.  The elderly woman’s curiosity
had gotten the better of her.  She inched closer to get a better look.   Seconds later Mrs. Ferguson screamed so loud she could have woke up the dead……….well almost.

Twenty minutes later two officers in a police boat fished the lifeless body out of the Delaware.  It was clear from their expressions that this was no ordinary corpse.  Anyone who followed politics or has watched the local news would have instantly recognized that face.  The body fished out of the river was none other than Pennsylvania’s controversial congressman Earnest Holloway.   Everyone has skeletons locked away in the closet, but politicos usually find a way to keep them locked away better than most.  Congressman Holloway had more than his fair share of enemies.  His death was sure to reveal more than a few dark nasty secrets.

News of the Congressman’s death spread like wildfire.  Soon reporters from across the country had converged on the banks of the Delaware where his body was discovered. 
Across town Alexander Steele was unaware of the Congressman’s demise.  His dilemma was of the domestic nature.  After loosing a bet to his girlfriend Shakia Steele had just finished whipping up breakfast for two consisting of shrimp and grits with waffles and coffee.  Shakia smiled as she took her seat at the table.  Still in her green night gown Shakia examined the food.  “Very good Alex, I always knew you were good with your hands.  I should bet you more often.  After breakfast you can make good on the second half of your bet.”  Steele was about to speak when the doorbell rang.  It was 8:45 a.m. on a Friday morning.  Normally Alexander Steele would be at his night club.  Steele tightened up the belt on his tan robe as he walked to the door.  Shakia was even more surprised when Steele opened the door and saw her sister standing in the doorway.  Shakia got up from the table at her sister entered the living room “Naomi what are you doing here?  Is Mom alright?  Is everything okay?”  Shakia rushed over and gave her younger sister a warm hug.  “Mom’s fine, everyone is fine.  How have you two been?”  Steele looked at Shakia then turned to Naomi as she gently rubbed Steel’s shoulder, we’re great.  What brings you to our neck of the woods?  Aren’t you supposed to be in DC?  Naomi looked puzzled.  Haven’t you guys been watching the news?  Steele picked up the remote from the sofa and turned to MSNBC.  Naomi was too impatient to wait so she just blurted it out.   Congressman Holloway has been murdered.  She gestured to the TV. They pulled him out the river a couple of hours ago.  The three stood in the living floor as they watched the footage of the Congressman’s lifeless body being pulled onto the boat like fisherman hauling in a large tuna.  Shakia put her hand to her mouth; oh that’s terrible who would do such a thing?  Steele snickered, ha, really, take your pick.  That guy had more enemies that Saddam Hussein.  Naomi turned from the TV to Steele.  Alex can I talk to you for a minute …….alone?  Shakia perked up when she heard the words alone.  “Well that’s not the least bit suspicious at all sis.  What do you have to say to him that you don’t want me to hear?  Realizing that it was a bad move Naomi conceded the point and agreed to include her sister in the conversation.  The three sat on the couch and Naomi began making her pitch.  You guys know that I am the Senator’s assistant.  Well you probably also know that Congressman Holloway is; well was changeling my boss for his senate seat in November.  That’s gonna move him to the top of the suspect list.  This is going to be a distraction to my boss Senator Green so he wants to hire you to find out who murdered the Congressman. 
The Senator had a fundraiser diner at the Four Season Hotel last night that is why I am in town.  After dinner he drove back to Washington.  There is no way he could have murdered the Congressman.

Shakia tapped Steele on the arm and tilted her head toward the kitchen.  “Alex can I see you in the kitchen for a minute” Naomi seemed even more nervous than before.  She strained to hear what was being said in the kitchen but could only hear whispers.  Shakia was beside herself.  Alex, she’s lying.  I could always tell.  When she was 9 she broke a saucer in Mom’s china closet and glued it back together without saying a word.  I almost got blamed but my parents knew that whenever she wiggled or tapped her foot she was hiding something.  It’s a dead giveaway.  Steele was about to confront Shakia’s sister when her cell phone rang.   Naomi reached inside her right coat pocket and pulled out a black cell phone but didn’t brother to look at the number, she simple turned the ringer off.  Steele stroked the ends of his mustache and sat next to his girlfriend.  “That was the Senator wasn’t it?” Naomi glanced down at her phone. “Yes, how did you know?” Steele smiled, “that’s a $20.00 phone.  A woman in your position, your salary wouldn’t rely on a cheap phone like that.  I’m sure your other phone is somewhere inside your handbag.  My guess is he’s the only one who has that number that’s why you didn’t brother to look to see who the caller was.  If I were a betting man, Steele paused long enough to look over at Shakia; I would say that you and the Senator are having an affair.  That’s why you were so sure he didn’t commit the murder.  You two spent the night at the hotel together.  How am I doing so far?”  Shakia shook her head and sighed as she starred at her sister, “Lord Jesus what have you done.  That’s why you didn’t want me in the room when you and Alex talked.  Please tell me it’s not true. 

“Shakia it’s not what you think.  I knew you wouldn’t approve.”  Naomi struggled to find the right words.  After a moment of fidgeting in her seat she held up both hands and blurted out “it’s complicated.  Can we focus on the murder for now?  I promise I will explain everything to you once this mess is over.”  Shakia crossed her arms, leaned back on the couch and starred at her sister. 

“You bet your ass we will” 

Steele was equally put out by Shakia’s sister act of deception.  “Naomi, you know me so I’m gonna be blunt.  Tell me everything, no hedging.  If you lie to me again you’re on your own and let’s be clear about one thing.  If the Senator murdered Holloway he’s going down.”

After an apology to Steele and Shakia Naomi began explaining how she rented the hotel suite where the fundraiser was held.  She told Steele that she and the Senator had spent the night together and that he was driving back to Washington because he would have been recognized it he had taken Amtrak. 

Shakia took one look at Steele and knew it didn’t look good for Naomi or the Senator.  “Alex, its bad isn’t it?  Steele shook his head.  “Yes, but it we move fast enough we can keep it from getting worse.”  He asked Naomi who checked out of the hotel.  She explained that the Senator always left first and that she would wait 15 minutes before leaving.  Since the hotel has automatic checkout she just dropped the key off and left.

Steele rushed to the phone and called his friend Stan.  It didn’t take a detective to realize that the voice on the other end of the call was not his best friend/computer hacker.  “Who am I speaking too”  “Oh this is Christine who is this?”  This is Steele, baby I’m in kinda of a rush, can you put Stan on?”   Minutes later a groggy sounding man spoke into the receiver “Steele man do you know what time it is?”  “Yeah it’s time to get your ass up.  It’s after nine.  I need you to get over to the Four Seasons hotel.  I need to know what areas their surveillance cameras monitor.”  Stan yawned into the phone.  “I don’t need to.  I was just there last month.  They only have cameras in the main lobby and all the entrances and exits.”  Steele could hear Christine’s voice in the background “last month, why were you at a hotel last month.  Mr. you got some explaining to do.”  The sleepy voice on the other end spoke again.” Thanks Steele”.  There was a sudden click and the line went dead.

Steele instructed Naomi to contact the Senator.  “Tell him to be honest for a change and tell the truth about him staying at the hotel and when he left.  Just leave out the part about you being there with him.  The surveillance cameras will verify him leaving.  Once they see him leaving the hotel they won’t need to watch the rest of the footage.  They aren’t looking for you so they will assume that he was alone.”  Naomi looked worried, “but he won’t have an alibi Steele.  Staying alone in a hotel in the same city won’t prove his innocence.” 

Steele motioned for her to calm down.  “Baby steps, this is the murder of a Congressman we’re talking about her.  That means a lot of rocks are gonna be turned over and a lot of dirt will come out.  If your boyfriend is driving a government car then it is equipped with a GPS not to mention the Easy Pass monitor that keeps a record of every time he goes through a toll.  We’re not just talking about lying to the local cops; we are talking about the FBI, a grand jury and possibly a judge.  Sooner or later they will want a statement from you but since you are near the bottom of the food chain hopefully that won’t be for a while.  In the meantime you need to lay low.  Stay with your sister until I figure who the killer is.  Naomi looked over at an angry Shakia then back at Steele.  “Do I have too?  Can’t I stay here with you?  Steele laughed and went to get dressed. 

Part Two will be posted Tuesday
Chapter #2  Sex Drugs and Politics 

Want more Alexander Steele

Case of the Death Dealer
Case of the Deadly Ring
Legacy of Death

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.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Deadly Gamble Chapter Nine The Thirty Million Dollar Answer

Chapter #9
The Thirty Million Dollar Answer

Two weeks had passed since Audrey was arrested for the murders of Mrs. Matthews and Sam.  Pablo was on the run from the authorities and the Di Angelo brothers.  Everything else appeared to be back to normal at least for the moment.  Steele had just finished reading the sports section in the morning paper.  The Phillies were on a winning streak.  Just as he was about to turn the page he heard Sugar Bear yell from the front of the bar.  “Hey Alexander, could you come up here for a minute.”  Sugar Bear was in trouble.  He had just given Steele the distress call signal.  Sugar Bear never called Steele by his first name.  It was a code the two had worked out on the day the club first opened.  Steele didn’t hesitate; he quickly reached down under the seat into the secret compartment inside his bench.  After pulling out his gun he hustled out the back door.  Seconds later he managed to creep up behind a man in the front lobby holding a gun directly at Sugar Bear’s chest.  It took Steele no time at all to recognize the gun toting hood, it was Pablo.  Steele startled him when he spoke from behind him. 

“What can I do for you Pablo?  Thought you’d be in Mexico by now.”  Pablo whirled around to face the barrel of Steele’s Glock.  Sugar Bear wasted no time scurrying behind the bar.  Pablo looked tired and scared, it was clear that he had lost some weight. 
“Oh trust me amigo if I had my way I would have been there a week ago.  Thanks to you I got no job.  Matthews didn’t even pay me what I earned for the last week I worked, ungrateful bastard.”  Pablo scoffed, “So what, I planted a few plants in back of his house.  It’s not like I killed his wife you know.”

Steele raised his gun slightly higher.  He was in no mood to indulge Pablo by participating in his pity party.  “Don’t blame me for your troubles, I wasn’t the one who planted the coca plants and I wasn’t the one who threw you under the bus it was Antonio.”

Pablo sneered at Steele. “Sure Steele blame the old man who’s not here to defend himself.  You think I don’t know that Antonio quit the day after you caught Audrey?  Yeah that’s right he just turned in his resignation and took off without giving any notice.  Why would he turn me in if he was leaving anyway?  Now I need you to help me do the same.  Nick put a contract out on my ass.  He wants to set an example for the rest of his minions.”

Steele nodded slowly.  “Let me guess, you owe him money.  I bet you talked him into giving you an advance on the money you were going to make from the drugs.”  Steele hit a sore spot that angered Pablo. 

“Listen I don’t owe you an explanation.  If I stay in Philly I’m a dead man, it’s as simple as that.  Now open the damn safe, give me the money and I’ll be on my way.  You owe me that much Steele.”

Now it was Steele who was angry.  He pointed the gun directly at Pablo’s forehead and took a step closer to him.  “I don’t owe you shit.  You dug this hole and now the Di Angelo brothers are gonna put you in it.  We live, or in this case die, with the choices we make in life. You made very bad choices and now it’s time to pay the piper.”

Steele thought for a moment.  After realizing that most of his customers pay using credit cards he had a sudden change of heart.  The last thing he wanted was a shootout. 
Steele had just received a hefty paycheck from Mr. Matthews and he also didn’t want Sugar Bear to catch a stray bullet.  He reasoned to himself,
 “I can always replace the money but good friends are hard to come by.”
 “Okay Pablo you got a deal, but put down the gun first you are making my manager nervous.  Pablo lowered his weapon but kept it by his side.  “No tricks Steele, I just need some running money.”

Steele had Sugar Bear open the safe while he held his gun on Pablo.  Sugar Bear was not happy with Steele’s decision to give Pablo the money and he wasn’t shy about expressing how he felt.

“I don’t know about this boss.  When did you get into the business of supporting drug dealers?”  Pablo took exception to Sugar Bear’s comment. 

“I don’t deal drugs amigo; I just grow the plants, what happens after that is not my concern.”

Sugar Bear handed Pablo a small stack of bills.  He could see the disappointment on Pablo’s face as he accepted the paltry bundle of cash. “Is that it?  What the hell are you trying to pull Steele?  Where’s the rest of my money?”

Steele lowered his weapon and shrugged his shoulders.  “I think you’re behind the times amigo.  Most working people pay with plastic these days.  I kept my end of the deal now get the hell out of my club.”

Steele followed Pablo as he stormed out the door.  He watched Pablo walk towards an old, blue, beat up Chrysler.  Out of the corner of his eye Steele could see a slow moving car through the large side view mirror of a parked delivery truck.  Nick D’Angelo’s gray Camaro was back.  As it turned the corner Steele noticed two silver guns pointing out of the car on the passenger side and from the back seat.  Steele calls to warn Pablo was drowned out by a hail of bullets all headed in Pablo’s direction.  Not wanting to take chances Steele hit the ground just outside the club’s front door.  Pablo groaned and lurched forward as the sounds of gunfire and broken car windows filled the air. Seconds later Pablo laid stretched out on the side walk covered in blood and shards of glass.  Steele held his weapon close to his chest.  He watched as the car speed off before he crouched close to the ground and cautiously made his way over to Pablo’s lifeless body.  With his head down Sugar Bear carefully made his way a few steps behind.

“Steele you want me to call an ambulance?  Steele shook his head slowly as he looked down at the bullet riddle copse.  “No, go back inside; in case they decide to come back.  The only person who can help him now is an undertaker.”

In mere minutes what had been a quiet uneventful morning had turned into a media circus.  Police cars, camera crews, ambulances and newspaper photographers lined Stenton Avenue.  Throngs of curiosity seekers stood behind yellow crime scene tape with their cell phone cameras at the ready hoping to catch a glimpse of the gruesome corpse now covered by a black tarp. 

Steele was ambivalent about Pablo’s death.  He may not have sold the drugs directly but without the Pablo’s of the world there would be far less cocaine on the streets of Philadelphia.  After giving a statement to the police Steele wanted to just get away from the activity outside his club.

“Hey Sugar Bear, if you need me I’ll be on the rooftop.”  Steele sat quietly on the roof reflecting on recent events.  Not long after he went up stairs Sugar Bear came up with a brown box from UPS. 

“Here you go boss.  This looks important so I brought it right up.”  He looked down on the floor where the black stains use to be.  Sugar bear smiled, “see boss, remember I used newspaper when the paint was wet so I wouldn’t leave footprints.  Well I told you that the rain would wash the ink from the paper away.”  At that instant Steele had a moment of clarity.  For weeks he was baffled by why the mats from the pool house and shed were tossed to the side of the building then returned to their original places days later.  The person who stole the lottery ticket must have used the mats placing one in front of the other to avoid leaving prints as they made their way to the shed window.  Steele smiled, stood up and patted Sugar Bear on the back.  “Thanks Sugar Bear.”  Of course Sugar Bear had no idea why Steele was so happy about receiving a package.  Maybe one day Steele would tell him the whole story. 

After Sugar Bear headed back down stairs, Steele examined the box.  It was from Japan.  He cautiously removed the wrapping and was amused at what he saw inside.  Packed in dry ice was 5 pounds of Kobe beef. On top of the rare beef was a tan envelope wrapped in plastic.  Inside the envelope were a few photos and a letter. 

Steele recognized the backdrop in each photo. Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the Devils Tower in Wyoming, the Golden Gate Bridge in California and the Great Wall of China.  The photos were nice but what made Steele laugh out loud was the man in the photos.  Weeks after Steele had solved the double murders the final pieces of the mystery puzzle had finally fell into place.  In the forefront of each photo was Antonio.  He smiled, mugged and posed in each of the stops on his world tour.   The letter read,

“Greetings Mr. Steele,
A wise man once told me to live my dreams.  Thank you for encouraging me to do so.  Sorry about the deception.  I had to put you on the spot on the night Audrey was caught because I wanted to get rid of the last bad element before I left.  Good people still work there, they deserve better than slime like Pablo.

Enclosed is a peace offering. I hope you enjoy it.  In case you haven’t figured it out already it was me who turned off the camera and moved the door mats.  There was no way my fat ass would have been able to climb to the roof and down the ladder like Audrey did. 

I wish you continued success.  Tell Tara I said hello.  Well for me it’s off to the Forbidden City today.  I’ll be in touch. 

All the best

Steele was happy with the way things had turned out but one thing still bothered him.  His friend Sugar Bear would soon be married and probably start a family.  He needed to learn how to protect himself.  Steele decided that tomorrow he would take his friend to the gun shop then to the range to learn how to use a firearm.  If Steele’s instincts were correct Sugar Bear would need to be prepared to protect himself even if it meant taking a life. 

Hours later when all the excitement was over Steele walked downstairs and looked at the blood stained sideway.  Nick D’Angelo had sent a message.  This was the second case where Steele had a run in with one of the D’Angelo brothers and he had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last.  Steele wondered when the time comes whose blood would be on the side walk the Angelo brothers or his. 

The End

Beginning October 10th a brand new Alexander Steele Mystery begins. 

Until then please checkout Alexander Steele and the Legacy of Death.

Alexander Steele attempts to solve a 20 year old cold case.  Things heat up when Steele begins asking questions.  People familiar with the case are turning up dead.  Could Steele be the next target?