Back in my office I considered what I had learned. My former boss, Duke Fararra, the owner of the agency where I’d trained to be a P.I., taught me that sometimes you had to kick the tires to dislodge the rust. I was going do that, metaphorically. On the main floor of my building was a small print shop where one could do some typing and mailing. I used an old portable typewriter they had lying around to compose a brief letter in which I explained I had some information the letter’s recipient needed. For a fee, I’d provide it. The information I had. I could have done the letter on my computer, but I wasn’t good with it for things like this. Besides, I wanted a deliberately low-tech appearance.
I typed that the information was about the recently dead Augustus Molinaro. I suggested they call my representative, detective Sean Sean, and I put in my office telephone number. I signed it, Martin Levy. I addressed it to the Elite Agency in Edina. I didn’t wear gloves, and I didn’t care about other traces I might leave since I just wanted to see if I could break something loose. Rattle a cage or two, so to speak.
Elite knew where my office was, and they knew where I lived. So I mailed the letter and went home. The next morning, after a peaceful night with my cats, a delicious steak and baked potato, and Yo-Yo Ma on the stereo, I sat down at my home computer, a nice, state of the art Dell, and Googled up Mr. Augustus Molinaro. I spent a couple of hours wandering the Internet dipping into various government and media sites, collecting bits and pieces on Don Molinaro. Some of this research had been done before and by others. But I was looking with a different eye. I wasn’t just collecting information, I was looking for clues. I was searching for something like a loose thread I could pluck out of the fabric of this event. What I assembled gave me some clues as to what might be going on. Molinaro came out of a Boston family. He spent some time in New York and then went off to Pennsylvania. I got the impression he was kind of a visiting fireman, or maybe a trusted liaison. In any case, he settled down in Mechanicsburg where he then rose steadily through the ranks to become a kingpin of the Eastern Pennsylvania Mafia.
Mechanicsburg is a small place, essentially a western suburb of Harrisburg in east-central Pennsylvania. It’s on the Susquehanna River. Which wanders through the Tuscarora and Appalachian mountains on its way to Chesapeake Bay. Pretty country out that way. Why is it important? If you drive north along the river a few hours you come up to Milton. It’s an easy scenic sort of drive with the White Deer Ridge rising ahead. You’ll see signs for the town of White Deer and another place called Allenwood. Allenwood has seen a lot of mobsters and other assorted criminals over the years. It’s the site of a large federal prison complex. One of the biggest in the federal prison system. So Mechanicsburg isn’t such a bad place to be headquartered if you function as a kind of inside/outside liaison. And you might acquire a lot of juicy secrets. And if you were a careful Don Augustus Molinaro—greasy Gus—after a while you might just become a liability. Or not. I was going to find out, hopefully not by traveling to Pennsylvania. There was a surprising amount of information, both official and not so official, about Allenwood on the Internet. There wasn’t a floor plan of course, and the maps were a little short on exactitude. So I called the Bureau of Prisons. Yes, under certain guidelines and under the rules for particular prisoners, almost anyone could visit almost any prisoner. If said prisoner agreed.
Now, in spite of what they tell you about security, information flows back and forth. So does contraband. I was getting an idea that just maybe Don Molinaro was targeted for past actions or indiscretions which may have only come to light in recent times. If that were true, knowing what changes had occurred could lead me to the why of the bomb. From there it could be an easy step to the who of it. So the question of the moment became what sorts of information and other illegal goods might the good Don have been handling? I would find out. I went to my office and checked the roof across the street. It was empty. I checked the street. No ice-blue late model Audis in sight. I ran my new blinds up and down a couple of times. Nice and smooth. The telephone rang.
It was my cop friend, Ricardo Simon. “How’s tricks, dude?” he asked. “Okay. I’m still a little jumpy, as you can imagine. Any information for me?” “Not on the Molinaro thing. I’m calling because we got a notification that Mrs. Higgins has been released.” “What, probation?” “Yeah. Good behavior. Thought you’d want to know.” “I appreciate the heads up, but I didn’t take her daughter’s threat seriously, did you?” “Nope. Just wanted you to know,” he said. “Is she staying in town?” “Oh, sure. Her listed address is their place on the south side.” “Thanks. Let’s have dinner one day.” “On you. Take care, Sean.” Simon hung up the phone. Mrs. Higgins. Huh. I’d been instrumental in getting her put away back a couple of years. She’d had an accident on the job at some insurance company. Figured she knew enough to stiff the company for a whole lot of money. Nice older lady, until you got in her way. Then she could turn nasty. I followed her around for a while and discovered her back and hip problems weren’t anywhere near as bad as she and her doctor said they were. I’d testified in court that my pictures and video of her cavorting in the water at Hidden Lake were true and unedited. I guess it didn’t help that she wasn’t wearing any clothes. Anyway, when the jury convicted her, she stood up in court and called me some names in most unfortunate language, concluding as the bailiffs muffled her that she’d get me.
I hung up and went to the bathroom. When I got back to my office, the message light was blinking so I played the recording. There was only one call, from Blanche at the retirement home. “Hey, sonny,” she said. “Good recording on your answer machine. Get your buns out here as soon as you can. I got some intelligence for you.” Uh oh. If these imperative calls became a frequent pattern, Blanche could get to be a nuisance. On the other hand, she might have something significant for me. I decided to compromise with myself. I’d go over to Sheltering Limbs tomorrow morning on my way into the city from home, instead of right now...
I haven't quite figured out the time period during which Sean Sean acted as a PI... For one, cell phones exist, but he refuses to use one. Computers, including notebook style are available, but Sean doesn't have one. In fact, he eschews most anything technical, and, instead, depends upon experts with whom he builds relationships, to handle the parts of his job that are necessary, but not really, actually dealing with the actual investigation and pulling the pieces of information together to solve a case...
And while he may not use technology, he has outfitted his car in various ways to ensure that he's able to both protect himself as well as work to investigate wherever he may need to go, all with the right tools... He is also quick to notice and remember his immediate surrounding area, no matter where he was, and, even though everybody was running around, Sean was, perhaps, the only one for this case who noticed a car parked not too far away that seemed to have two men in the front seat... And, a blue silver car, which he would later identified as an Audi...
Of course, he's also particular with what jobs he takes--and, under no circumstances, will he take on jobs related in any way to the mafia...
But, this one evolved out of an accident... Specifically, a wheelchair was found very near to the entrance of Sean's home and he had immediately ran to see if he could help... The individual in the chair lived in a retirement home. Sean learned from the officer in charge, Sgt. Lasker, that the chair and occupant was blown literally into pieces by a bomb! Fortunately, Ms. Laster was the type of officer who was willing to include Sean as somewhat of a partner as long as they were willing to share whatever information was found by either.
Almost immediately, it seemed that there was one individual who would be the main person of interest. He was a male attendant to the victim, Augustus Molinaro, a Mr. Levy, who was not an employee of the Home and about whom not even the director of the Home knew how to contact him. The only thing anybody now knew was that he had disappeared right after the bomb had exploded!
This investigation was turning out to be extremely complex, so much so that Sean had to start making notes... He lamented the fact that, unlike Hammer or Philip Marlowe who must have a better memory since they didn't take notes... So Sean headed back to his office to start writing up what had happened. He may not have a client, but he knew that he personally was going to get involved with this one... Yeah, even after they found out that Augustus was, you guessed it, actually, Greasy Gus who had a long mob connection! So Sean figured he'd better check a few manuals--Lew Archer and a Ross MacDonald from his bottom desk drawer, but neither of these provided any new insight... Although... Archer did suggest that in his experience, at least, old crimes seemed to be at the root of much of his clients’ troubles. When the telephone rang, I picked up. That turned out to be one of my poorer decisions of the day... But Archer was right, because Greasy Gus' crimes were old...and still continuing! 'Til Somebody Blew Him Up!
Cause the Feds were not involved... And one of the things he brought to that meeting was this: What I mean is, who knows how many other nefarious characters like Greasy Gus are being quietly housed in our community? Isn’t this something that civic-minded citizens ought to take to City Hall? I mean, do I have to start worrying about property values?”
Well, Sean, somebody is out to keep you off this case... first, there's the two big guys... then somebody murders one of them thinking it was you...and then an anonymous caller asks you to meet him late that night at the Stone Arch Bridge... Personally, I'm pretty sure Spenser would have told him to take at least Hawk as backup...
It was a typical mid-summer night in Minnesota. Hot, moist, thick. It was nigh onto three in the morning and the pavers under my tires chuckled and popped. That’s what they’re called, pavers. Basically, they’re a kind of brick, and they replaced mud and gravel on a lot of Twin Cities streets in an earlier century. Some places they called ‘em cobble stones. Later they were dug up or just coved over with asphalt. In this historic district of the original village of Saint Anthony, hard by Saint Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River, in spite of their unevenness, the pavers had been exposed and many re-laid to add a bit of nostalgic ambience to the neighborhood. With the later bar closing installed by the legislature and various city councils, there were still a lot of people about here in the dead of night and numerous cars parked at the curbs. In an earlier time, three in the morning would have been pretty dead. Maybe my mysterious caller was hoping for the anonymity of a crowd. I was driving slowly south, more or less along the east bank. That put the river on my right. My caller had said to meet him at the south end of the famous Stone Arch Bridge. The bridge actually connects the east and west banks of the river, but because of the orientation of bridge and river at that particular place, the east end of the bridge was actually a little south of the west end. People sometimes get confused about that. Makes clandestine rendezvous problematic—or something. A patrol car went by in the other direction. I felt the cop’s eyes on me for a minute, registering, assessing my presence. Not for the first time I wondered why I was indulging my caller. I might learn something significant, but more than likely, I wouldn’t. I was a little more relaxed than I might have been because the site was open. It would have been difficult to sneak up on me, or even to get a shot off. The lighting and the closed up building on this side of the river all worked in my favor.
He was wearing a western-style straw hat and dark narrow-legged pants. But no high-heeled boots. His shoes appeared to be dark cross-trainers. The hat was pulled low on his forehead so his face was shadowed from the ugly orange overhead light that fell on us. He was white. His dark blue or black short-sleeved shirt revealed skinny arms and knobby elbows. I judged he was around forty, maybe a little older, and around 160 pounds. He appeared reasonably fit. He was leaning against the railing on the bridge looking sort of down toward the water and when I got close enough he said “Mr. Sean.” Quiet voice. Flat, no discernable inflection or accent. Not nervous. Like the voice on my machine. “That’s me,” I said. I didn’t ask his name. I figured it was a waste of breath. He didn’t ask me for ID, either. I was pretty sure anything that transpired here wasn’t going to end up in a courtroom under oath. A nocturnal bicyclist rode slowly by, tires faintly hissing on the pavers. I leaned on the same railing facing the man about four feet away. My instincts told me he wouldn’t take it kindly if I moved closer. He turned his head and seemed to look past me. I had the feeling he was checking for observers. I’d already done that. I was feeling just a mite exposed. After two murder attempts I was jumpier than usual.
“You came alone.” “Yes. Your call indicated this was to be a private meeting.” “You wired?” “No. That stuff is expensive, not always reliable, and I can’t recall the last time I had a need for it.” “Who killed Dennis?” “Dennis?” For a moment I was taken aback, as it were. I recovered quickly. “Oh. Dennis, the man I called Buzz Cut. I don’t know.” “Wasn’t you.” “No. I was home watching TV. I think he was searching my office and somebody made a mistake. Whoever did it saw a shadow on the window blind, thought it was me, and pulled the trigger.” “You get shot at often?” “No, but it happened not too long ago. In my office that time as well. Missed me then, too.” I made an effort to keep my voice laconic. I didn’t want this guy to think I’d been freaked. Or that I was a little freaked at the murder of Buzz Cut in my office. “So you’re satisfied whoever shot Dennis thought he was aiming at you.” “That is correct.” “And it’s not related to the Molinaro thing.” “I don’t believe it is. I haven’t come across anything that would lead me to think there’s a connection. I could be wrong about that.”
My inquisitor shifted away slightly to take more weight on his off leg. I can’t stand hip-shot like that for more than a few seconds. I guess the stance pinches a nerve in my back, or something. “You worried about being offed?” The tone of his voice changed. I’d had a feeling right from the beginning that the guy was graveling his voice and trying to use language in a different manner from his normal voice. All by way of concealing his identity. “Do you want to get to your point? It’s late, and I’ve got a full plate tomorrow.” I didn’t, but he didn’t have to know that. “Have you discovered anything about Gus Molinaro’s background?” “Some. He came from Mechanicsburg. That’s in Pennsylvania. Just a short ride south of Allenwood, the federal prison.” Straw Hat nodded once. “Do you know where Martin Levy is?” “No,” I said truthfully, “I don’t.” “We think he was planted on Gus.” I remained silent. None of my business what this guy and his companions, or family, thought. The less involved I could stay, the more likely I was to come out of this without any excess baggage. I rolled to my left and placed both elbows on the rail. Stared down at the water. It put me a little closer to my companion. I had my face turned toward him and could see a figure on a bicycle coming toward us along the bridge. Under the orange lights he was wearing a helmet, loose ankle-baring pants and a baggy tee shirt. He kept both hands on the handlebars and pedaled at a steady pace right on by us. Didn’t so much as glance our way. “I think you’ve got a tail,” I said. “Unless that cyclist is one of your minders.” Straw Hat tensed slightly. “All right,” he said. “Somebody will call you.”
With a surprising ending, I was hooked on this case from the very beginning...
But next, we'll be hunting for a stolen piece of Art! I'm loving the Sean Sean Mystery Series! How About You?
Is FOX a true news organization or a propaganda machine for Donald? The answer came with the Dominion law suit. Below are behind-the-scenes quotes from both “news” reporters and FOX administration.
Tucker Carlson, one of Donald’s most obsequious cheerleaders, is just one example of how FOX is more worried about ratings than reality. From Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 4 2021 text: “We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait. I hate him passionately.”
From a later text of Carlson talking about Donald: “What he’s good at is destroying things. He's the undisputed world champion of that.” Yet Tucker still cited Donald’s claims on his program.
The owner of FOX, Rupert Murdoc, also knew that Donald lied about the election. From a Nov. 19, 2020 email to a friend, he described Donald and his then-lawyer Rudy Giuliani as "both increasingly mad" due to their election claims. He also said that voter fraud claims, in general, were “really crazy stuff”. Murdoch referred to Donald’s lies about the election as “bullshit”, an astonishingly accurate one-word summary of the Big Lie.
Yet Murdoc, knowing these outrageous claims were absolutely false, still allowed his subordinates to support them. When asked why he did, Murdoc answered that it was a business decision: “It is not red or blue, it is green.”
So, as to whether FOX is news or propaganda with respect to Donald, the answer is unambiguous. FOX is an ultra-right propaganda machine supporting Donald’s many lies rather than presenting the truth. It’s Donald’s Pravda and should be viewed as such.
The newly unveiled exhibits show the extraordinary energy and attention devoted to mollifying Trump and his die-hard supporters in the days after Fox correctly called the election for Joe Biden.
Dominion alleges Fox knowingly aired false conspiracy theories that its voting machines had a role in Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election in a bid to boost ratings.
In a statement on Tuesday, Fox said Dominion used “distortions and misinformation” to smear Fox and claims quotes were misattributed.
They Knew and They Did It Anyway!
Where does Freedom of Speech Begin and End?
This Law Suit Just MIGHT Begin the Way Back to Truth??!!!
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE...
L is for Liar. In 1997, Bill Clinton said, “I did not have sex with that woman,” which, of course, was a lie. What he should have said was, “I did not provide dry-cleaning services for that woman.” In 1992, George Bush Sr. famously said, “Read my lips, no new taxes,” and then raised taxes. That lie famously cost him the election. Perhaps the most famous (infamous?) lie of all came in 2003, when George W. Bush started the war in Iraq because “there were weapons of mass destruction” there. There weren’t; it was a lie. (Unless, of course, he believed it and, fifteen years later, he’s still looking for them, in much the same way O.J. is still looking for Nicole’s real killer). Those political lies stand out because they were aberrations, not the norm.
Donald Trump lies so often and so frequently that the truth stands out—or at least it will, if he ever tells it. Donald Trump tells all kinds of lies. He tells lies of defamation (that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination, for example); lies of dissembling, which is lying by posing as someone you’re not (Trump used to call journalists and pretend he was his own publicist); lies of deception (he fired Comey because of the “way he handled the Hillary email investigation”; even Trump didn’t believe that one!); lies of fabrication (he said Muslims in New Jersey were cheering on 9/11); and my favorite, bald-faced lies (for example, about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, in spite of aerial photos proving that what he was saying was patently false). The truly fascinating thing is that Trump lies when it’s unnecessary and for no apparent reason. To this day, he carries on about how he was at the top of his class at Wharton Business School, a lie that (a) is not true, (b) was about something from fifty years ago, and (c) nobody cares about. If I said I was the Queen of Sweden from 1963 to 1964, it would clearly be a lie, but would you care? No. You’d just wonder why I would lie about something like that.
Which brings us to the real problem with Trump’s lying: credibility. If he’s lying about inconsequential things, how will we know if he’s telling the truth about big things, like a nuclear attack or a health pandemic or whether he’s hung like a horse, as he claims? It’s hard to trust someone who lies constantly. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said it best: “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” (He was deep.) Donald Trump is like an adult version of the character in Aesop’s fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” The boy lied and lied and lied about the wolf coming for his sheep, and then, one day, the wolf really did come, but nobody helped the boy fight the wolf off because they no longer believed him. In the end, the boy was eaten by the wolf.
I think that if Trump keeps on compulsively lying, sooner or later no one will believe him, and he’ll get eaten by the wolf. And so will we, even though we have not been the ones doing all the lying. And that pisses me off...
Robert Sells has Graciously Agreed to Become an Ongoing Contributor at Book Readers Heaven. You can find him mostly On Facebook... But we look forward to hearing more of his thoughts and awareness of what is happening in the Political Sphere! Welcome Robert and, folks, please feel free to share your comments below if you wish!
I shut off my pager and sat down. The record I’d selected, an old piece by the original Brubeck trio, filled the room and suppressed the routine sounds of any barroom. The blend reminded me of the first time I’d heard “Take The A Train” by this jazz trio, in a smoky night club in Washington, D. C. But, that’s another story.
I’d picked a table toward the rear of the place. There were lots of choices; only two others were occupied. “I’m meeting a friend,” I said to the dark-haired waitress. She was wearing faded jeans and an oversized gray sweatshirt that said Property of Michigan State University Athletic Department across the chest. “While I wait, I’ll have a Sam Adams ale if you stock it.” “No problem,” she said and turned away. I was tempted to ask her if the legend on her chest referred to her or the shirt, but thought better of it. Catherine wouldn’t have approved. When she brought me my beer I asked, “You have sandwiches here?” “Yeah, sure. Do you want a menu?” “No, thanks. I was just confirming something.” She smiled and walked away. The place was starting to fill up.
Ten minutes later, Jerome Ford walked in, hesitated and found me. I ordered him a Sam Adams and waited while he loosened his tie. “Very obscure and very nice little bar you have here, J. I had to go around the block because I missed it the first time. No parking lot, either.” Jerry smiled. “That’s the way we like it. Finns has been in the same family for generations and they own the building outright. When I was starting out as a lawyer, I did a few legal errands for them. So,” he smiled after a long draught from his glass, “to what do I owe the pleasure?” I opened my mouth to reply and then paused to watch a tall woman in a business suit step to the juke box and punch in some coins. What came out, to my pleasure and surprise, was Peggy Lee singing “Hot Coffee.”
I looked at Jerome. He smiled a little smile at me. “This place is a real anachronism, Jerry. I’m surprised you let me in on the secret.” “I figure you and Finn’s are compatible and you won’t be telling all your yuppie friends about it. What can I do for you?” “It appears to me there is a roving band of jolly scam artists running a pretty sophisticated operation. They’ve probably worked on both coasts. They run various scams, including some white-collar crime. I don’t know all the players yet, but I’m working on that.”
“So far it sounds pretty ordinary. What’s your interest?” “This seems to be an organized group that’s been together a while. It looks like they haven’t been splitting the take. Instead, they’re stockpiling some of it to finance later deals.” Jerome’s eyebrows went up. He took a slug of Mr. Adams’ finest ale. “Another thing they are doing. They find local investors, people who will pony up some money for a cut of the results. Then the out-of-towners move in and start churning the real estate market, buying and selling quickly to inflate their profits, mostly distressed properties or homes in less than affluent neighborhoods. They work with willing inspectors, real estate salespeople and an S&L or bank or two. They also do an occasional armed robbery and some petty stuff.”
“What for? Walking around money?” “I guess. They appear to have run up against some local competition here. At least, that’s how I interpret what’s been going on.” Jerome nodded and I could see he was not unfamiliar with the situation. “That’s right,” he said. “There happen to be some people already operating a real estate scam., mainly in Hennepin County, but here in Ramsey County, too. They didn’t take kindly to out-of-town competition. In addition to which they figured, rightly it happens, that if things got too active, it’d call down the heat quicker.” I said, “The guy running the local deal is unknown to me, but I think I know the name of the head honcho for the outside gang. Armond Anderson. Other people involved with him appear to be the brothers Talbot, a new contractor operating in Bloomington named Jake Logan, and one or two other bad sorts. How’m I doing?” Ford smiled. “Very good so far, Sean. We have lots of suspicions but few facts. Yours tally with what we know.
I assume the Jake Logan you’re mentioning is the same one who turned up at that Foundation fund-raiser and offered a big chunk of cash from Mr. Anderson. The one we met there. Am I right? It would be entirely too coincidental if there were two Jake Logans. I don’t get why Anderson did that, though” I nodded and swigged from my own beer. “Such a coincidence would never be possible in a detective novel. Of course, in real life things like that happen almost every day. Howsomever, it is indeed, the very same J. Logan. It sort of turns my stomach, but the money will be useful to the foundation. Maybe we should not take these people down until the pledge is fully paid.” Ford laughed. “You have an evil mind, Sean, a very evil mind. One of the factors that bothers us is this.” He paused to consider his words. “Some of these mutts have been in and out of town before. We have some intelligence--” “As different from facts,” I interrupted. “As different from verifiable facts,” Ford went on, “that this roving gang planned something here around six years ago. For unknown reasons, they never went ahead with it.” I thought about that. I wondered if Ford and his cohorts in the courthouse had a link from the money presumably in the aluminum case, to this Anderson. I owed Jerry Ford a lot and I both needed and wanted to keep him as a friend. At the same time, I wasn’t eager to reveal that I’d been suckered into retrieving the money stolen in the Grand Pharmacy murder case. Even if I was almost certain now that the money was tied to Armond Anderson and his gang. I thought I had the money and that Anderson would come after me. I was going to use the case as bait to try to extricate Catherine’s cousin Mordecai. If I could.
You've got Spenser, Philip Marlowe, Father Martin, Mike Hammer, Nero Wolfe, Vi Warshawski, Sam Spade, Easy Rawlins, Hercule Poirot, and Sherlock Holmes as, perhaps, favorite PI characters...but do you recall, the most famous PI of all?
What? You've never heard of him? Well, until recently I may have heard of him, but I never met him...in novels I'd read. And, Yes, I had read books with all of the other PIs listed above... so I've had a solid background upon which to judge Mr. Sean, don't you think?
I still miss Robert B. Parker and Spenser. Spenser was not only a top PI, I loved the writing of Parker, even more... In fact, early in my work with authors, I would often refer beginning authors to Parker to get a handle on how to write without lots of superfluous... words...
On the other hand, those PIs that I enjoyed most were ones that were flaunting the past custom of writing in the third person and never speaking to the reader... For me, Sean Sean has become the best in this area. Sean only appears in a small number of books...too small in my opinion. Sure, the author could have tired of writing him and went on to other horizons... But, really, I, an avid reader of PI books, wish I had many more to binge on! I've now picked up all of the available books. Today's book is not the first, and I've already started another, but I want to go back to the first and continue on so that my knowledge of this intriguing character is expanded as much as possible. All of the books are free-standing, meaning, the case(s) is solved in each book. What does expand, of course, is the readers' knowledge of the main and other characters and how they interact routinely... It's kind of like meeting the family of your boyfriend, don't you think?
One of the major things I like about Sean is his constant referral to his training manuals...you know, when he pulls out a novel by Philip Marlowe, which is obviously one of his favorite mentors in all things that could happen within the PI bailiwick... Other authors or their main characters are often mentioned for background...
And, if my memory serves me right, Sean, like Spenser, is the only PI who has a female love interest to enhance the intrigue and sometimes fear of being connected on a long term to someone who may get pulled in unwillingly to a case...
For some reason, Sean talks a lot about being short. I had to think back to Mickey Rooney's 5'2" before I could remember any man who was short but had leading movie roles...
Then I thought of Michael J. Fox and knew he was the character I would choose to be Sean NMI Sean.
My name is Sean NMI Sean. Answering requests and pleas for help is how I make my living. Sometimes I even get to save a blushing female person from whatever form of dragon is in pursuit. That doesn’t happen often, mind you, and I don’t ride a pale horse. My current ride is faded blue, sired by Ford out of Detroit. I don’t actually like horses. Mostly I take jobs that require me to ferret out wrongdoers of low-level chicanery, the kind of cases the cops have too many of and too few resources to spend on. Occasionally, the requests for help evolved into something major. Not often. Now I was answering the call. Actually, two calls. Earlier in the day I took the first call at my office from Sally Belassario. He had a friend in trouble and would I talk to his friend. Since Sally was who he was, I said sure, tell the guy to call me. I promised Sal I’d tell him when the appointment was, so he could be there too. The rest of the day, the guy didn’t call. Actually, nobody called the whole rest of that day. Nobody called the next day either. My business wasn’t what you’d call thriving at the moment. Might be the economy. But at ten-ten the next night, this particular night, the phone rings and it’s some guy I don’t recognize who then hands the phone to Sally himself. Would I come to such and such an address? “When?” I asked. “Instantly,” Belassario said. His voice had a mournful, late-night, too-many-cigarettes back-of-the-throat scarred kind of tone. Belassario, being who he is, and who he knows, I agreed, silently mouthing my objections to having to leave the comfort of my house on such a nice, relaxing, summer night. That was twenty minutes ago. The smell got stronger. I went left on Raney, following Belassario’s instructions. I drifted along the street for a block, the finely tuned engine under the hood of my ride making barely a whisper. My ride didn’t have a name. No loud hoof-beats. No flowing mane, no slashing hooves. I saw flashing lights ahead. After cresting a small rise in the street, I could see the source of the flashes, just two blocks away. My gut and my nose told me I didn’t have to look at house numbers any longer. Good gut and nose reactions are useful things for a PI to have. That’s what I am, remember? A PI, a shamus. A de-tec-a-tiff. I’m pretty good at what I do, in spite of certain physical shortcomings. There are those who have suggested the biggest part of me is my ego. It’s also good for a PI to have a head, or at least a working brain, somewhere close by. Flashing blue lights atop a Saint Paul PD patrol car that pretty well filled the next intersection led me to draw up to the curb. I carry an honorary Ramsey County Sheriff’s badge which the county bestowed on me a few years back. Sometimes it gets me through auxiliary police...
Only thing about being short as a PI is that you need to be well-trained in all aspects of potential violence, which Sean was, to ensure he could handle the jobs he was asked to handle. Sean had hoped to become a police officer, but failed the height requirement...
In addition, Sean is intelligent and makes sure he figures out how to take care of himself by making adjustments to his living... Like always parking facing the front so he can leave early...but also to ensure that a bomb or other unwanted items can be placed in his trunk... And, of course, he checks his vehicle in all other ways before he drives off... One other thing and don't ask me why. Sean wears red Ked tennis shoes all the time...well, almost all of the time unless he needs to escort his lover in a tux... or, as he sometimes does, wears all black, including a very old pair of tennis shoes to be able to break in where he knew he'd have to be very careful...and discreet...
And one other thing I loved about Sean. He even thinks...in...prose!
Dunkin’ Donut coffee shop, I probed my memory cells and dredged up the Grand Pharmacy event. The robbery and killings six years ago had happened on a night very like the one I was currently driving through. It was a dark hour, a witching hour, one of those wee hours of the night when mists swirl; when shadows collect around the edges of narrow pools of wan yellow light cast down by the street lights that march in soldierly rows along the boulevards and avenues of the city. It was that time of night when strange rustlings are heard in the trees, when bats and owls drift on silent wings through the urban forest searching for their unwary prey. It was a time when other predators stir and skulk. It was a time when active imaginations sometimes go into overdrive. It was a time when everyone but nightshift workers and evildoers and fools are tucked up in bed behind locked doors and barred shutters. Nuts. What it was, it was about two-thirty in the a.m. of an extremely hot, still and sticky summer night. As I recall it...
As with most PIs, Sean has developed many types of people as connections. In this case, Sean has been contacted by one of those who may be a little shady, but, nevertheless, Sean knew that it was important to retain this relationship. So they agreed to meet at a specific address... When Sean got there, the house was on fire! And when Sean met his acquaintance, he learned that he was being asked to investigate a man who happened to live in the building. About a cold case that had happened many years ago...
Unfortunately, the man who was going to be further investigated, turned out to be in the house when it burned down. The good thing was that there had also been a chance that five children were in the building. They weren't. So only a bad guy died, taking with him his knowledge! Nevertheless, Sean was asked to proceed. The task was to find a case that had been stolen from the site of a robbery that took place at a pharmacy... and had never been found. Word on the street was that the case held millions of dollars!
I put on some Les Paul. He was a pioneer in multi-track recording back in the forties and fifties and created an electric guitar style that is still unsuccessfully emulated by a lot of today’s musicians. Paul was a huge influence on the popular music culture and I understand that Gibson still markets a Les Paul guitar.
Sean has cats and loves music...so, of course, that was part of my attraction to his life. Sean also talks to the audience. I find it extremely refreshing--if it is well done. You know, it is humorous, and often has Sean thinking to us about what his plans are to handle his latest case... Sean lives in the St. Paul-Minneapolis area so we learn a lot about what's happening there and where the good places are to eat--or not!
Sean also doesn't carry often... Of course, part of the reason is because when he has to carry a heavy gat around all day while traveling around talking to possible witnesses... the weight tires him out... After all, he doesn't even weigh 140 in wet clothes!
So Sean solves the case, of course... But he just keeps on talking...
So, with little else to do, I went through them again, looking at the illustrations, the titles. Like Dutch Sax with the seductive strings and orchestra of Dolf van der Linden. Right. Dutch Sax? Is their sex, er sax different from ours?
Then I laid my hands on an album I knew I had, but had misplaced for years. Frances Faye: Caught In The Act. Recorded by GNP Crescendo records which also issued an album with Helen Gurley Brown called Lessons In Love.
I put F. Faye on the turntable, cranked up the volume and built myself a drink. Several hours later, at about two a.m. with images of those albums in my head I came mostly awake in my chair. On my stumbling way to bed, I began to get the glimmer of an idea as to what my next move should be.
So over the next days or weeks, I'll be sharing more about Sean Sean and his PI exploits... through the rest of the series... I hope using this first post to tell you all about Sean, will ensure that you plan on coming back!
The girl said, “May I see your identification and badge again?” “Certainly.” “It’s Lieutenant Peter Deck—” “Son of a bitch!” That, Decker heard. He staved off a smile. The girl hung up the phone, with a slightly bemused look on her face. “He’s in the middle of a shoot. You must really rate.” “I don’t know about that.” “He’ll be with you in a few minutes.” “Thank you.”
Decker smiled, realizing that there wasn’t as much as a stool for him to sit on. Not much space for excess furniture anyway. It was a nondescript area with cream-colored blank walls and barely enough room for the receptionist and guard. Chris probably didn’t get much company. With Donatti, a few minutes actually meant a few minutes. The interior door opened, and there he was. No longer the lanky heartthrob of a teen, Christopher Whitman Donatti, at twenty-six, now cut a big swath. He was broad across the chest, with massive arms and developed biceps. His left hand gripped a Hasselblad that looked like a toy in his fingers. He was clean shaven, his abundant blond locks shorn just a step away from a buzz cut. A lean, long face contained high cheekbones and a wide forehead, with ruddy skin that wasn’t weathered but did hold some seams. He had a strong jawline, not chiseled but more manly than boyish. Generous lips that protected straight white teeth. Noticeable large blue eyes: ice-colored with no reflective quality whatsoever. What was the opposite of luminous?
Decker and his six-foot-four frame had always faced Chris eye-to-eye. For the first time, he sensed his line of vision moving upward. “You grew.” “I always was a late bloomer.” Donatti wore loose clothing—a black T-shirt over khaki cargo pants, the pockets bulging—probably filled with photographic paraphernalia and, no doubt, a state-of-the-art piece. His feet were housed in black suede running shoes. He was still blocking the door, staring at Decker. “I need to pat you down.” “I made it through security.” “I need to pat you down,” Donatti repeated. The child/guard was on his feet, his right hand on his hip. His face may have looked young, but his eyes reflected pure business. “Can I be of assistance, Mr. Donatti?” “Thanks, Justin, but this one’s mine.” Donatti gave the girl his camera, then turned to Decker. “The position?” Without protest, Decker faced the wall, leaning forward on his arms. It was natural for Donatti to assume that Decker was wearing a wire or carrying a gun—something for defense. As it was, Decker was putty, nothing but his brain for protection. Donatti was thorough with the frisk—front and back, up and down, inside and out. He went through Decker’s pockets, sorted through his credit cards and personal identification.
From his wallet, the kid pulled out the one lone photograph Decker was carrying—the recent snapshot of Jacob. Donatti showed him the photo. “This is the only picture you carry?” “My son gave it to me a couple of days ago. Normally, I don’t carry any pictures of my family.” “Protective?” “A lot of people resent me.” Decker smiled. Donatti’s face was flat. He stared at the snapshot. “He’s the image of your wife.” Decker’s stomach did a little dance. He didn’t respond and tried to look unimpressed. “Am I wrong?” Donatti said. “No, not at all.” Donatti returned the picture to Decker’s wallet, placed it back into the jacket pocket. He rummaged through the rest of Decker’s jacket, fishing out the envelope that held the crime-scene photos. It gave him pause. Carefully, he scrutinized them, studying them one by one. Again he stopped when he got to the photo of Ephraim with Shaynda. Though his eyes were fixed on the faces, his expression was completely blank. Abruptly, he placed the snapshots back in the envelope and slipped the whole package back into Decker’s pocket. Then he stepped away from the door. “Okay. You can come in.”
The loft was enormous, with vaulted ceilings, and large, dusty windows letting in filtered light. Each window had a shade on it—some were rolled up, some drawn. The floor was made from old planks of cherry wood, scuffed but still intact. Most of the studio was empty space, except for a bank of built-in cabinets underneath the windows, a weight rack, a cello case next to a backless chair, and the actual shooting area. Here was the place of action: a jumble of prop boxes, numerous hanging backdrops, several differently colored carpets, chairs, tables, and lighting accessories. There were umbrellas, tripods, reflectors, and spots—all of them positioned around the main stage. There was music in the background—something classical but atonal and avant-garde which Decker didn’t recognize. It was very low-pitched like whispered conversation. Two young boys—probably teenagers—were rearranging props and photographic equipment, pulling things in and out of boxes and bags. They were flitting around the center stage and its main occupant—a naked girl wearing spiked heels on her feet and a boa around her neck. Her blond hair was pinned, but in disarray. She wore little makeup—lipstick, a spot of blush. Big blue eyes were taking him in. Decker averted his gaze, electing to look at his shoes. All his girls are legit. She was probably eighteen, but she was made up to look around fourteen.
Wordlessly, Donatti started fiddling with the background tripod that held an electronic flash. “Go on.” “Are you talking to me?” Decker asked. “Yes, I am.” “Do you mind if we talk in private?” “Getting distracted, Lieutenant?” “Distracted is a good word.” “Hey, you said it was important. I figured we can talk while I work.” He regarded Decker’s eyes, his face cold and expressionless. “But if you want to talk to me alone, you’ll have to wait.” “How long?” “Beats me. But you can sit if you want. You can even take a cup of coffee.” Decker’s eyes swept across the room. There was a coffeepot resting on top of one of the cabinets. He walked over, poured himself a Styrofoam cup of black coffee, and looked around for a chair. Donatti said, “Matt, get the lieutenant a box to sit on.” One of the young boys snapped to it, bringing Decker a wooden crate. Decker thanked him, then watched Donatti pose the girl while trying not to stare too hard. Donatti positioned her, head back and legs apart. Then he nudged a reflector upward with his toe. “Up… up. Like this, okay?” Matt nodded, gripping the silver surface. Donatti took a lens out of his pants pocket and switched it with the one in his camera. “Keep the damn thing up!” Again he kicked the reflector. “Like that! Jesus! Reading?” The other young boy held up an exposure meter. A flash went off and the boy gave Donatti some numbers. The two assistants appeared almost prepubescent—narrow-hipped and narrow-shouldered, without any signs of facial hair. One was of dark skin—Latino or Puerto Rican—the other was Anglo. Both had long, silken hair—perfect chicken-hawk material. Decker wondered if Chris was swinging both ways, or at the very least pimping both ways. The boys were all work and showed no interest in the young girl, who was the center of attention—licking her lips provocatively as she parted her legs, her eyes on Decker. Again Decker looked at his feet.
“Nice place,” he said absently. “Like it? I own the building.” “Very entrepreneurial, Chris.” “I like business. It suits me.” Donatti did a slow turn and faced Decker with lightless eyes. “By the way, I called you Lieutenant. That means you call me Mr. Donatti.” “I stand corrected.” Donatti went over to the center and peered through the camera. “Matt, you got to lift up the reflector around an inch… yeah, there. Richie, you want to kick up that back light, I’m getting a nasty shadow… to the left. That’s good. Hold out the meter.” A flash went off. “Reading?” Richie gave him the numbers.
Donatti was not happy. He played with the lights, the umbrella, and the reflectors. As his frustration increased, Donatti’s assistants seemed to grow more and more anxious, exhibiting nervous twitches. There was no attempt at camaraderie. It was Mr. Donatti this, and Mr. Donatti that. Finally, the conditions met with Chris’s approval, and Donatti started snapping, talking the girl through it as he worked. He was fast and furious, dripping with sweat under the hot lights. The model was also sweating profusely. He worked continually for about five minutes; then without warning, Donatti stopped, swore, picked up a spray bottle of ice water, and blasted it over the young girl’s chest...
The Ritual Bath was the first book I read by Faye Kellerman. I had already read books by her writer husband, Jonathan Kellerman and found I enjoyed them greatly. One reason I wanted to consider Faye's books was because of the Jewish flavor that, I knew, would be both informative as well as entertaining. I was not wrong.
However, while I was doing book reviews professionally, I had stopped doing reviews for major authors, the Kellermans among them, because I knew they would get many reviews. And I was more interested in providing reviews for those requesting my assistance, normally those who were just beginning or were self-publishing, et.al. That proved to be an ongoing activity that has lasted for years and only stopped when my health became a factor.
When a LA Police Lieutenant gets called to New York to help, it can only be from family that would make the trip necessary... And, besides, Rina's sons were locating on the east coast so the trip could be turned into a vacation... At least that was the plan. Peter had been asked by his brother (half) because they had found his brother-in-law dead in a motel, naked. And, his niece who was close to him, had disappeared.
If you're thinking what I first thought, it was, obviously, the one that most everybody had thought. Except, Shayndie was Chasidic and, when questioned, confirmed that she was not intimately involved with her uncle--he was somebody she could talk to as a friend. Still, the big question was whether she was there during the time that her uncle had been clearly murdered. And whether she might actually have done it!
Decker had finally agreed to come, but he had also contacted the local police and explained he was there and was being asked to help. When they realized his rank, they had no problem working with him as long as he provided anything he discovered back to them.
Strangely, though he had known he was coming, when Peter met with Shayndie's father, it was clear that he really didn't want his help. Even having Peter check out her bedroom, as would be done to attempt to discover where she might have gone, had been refused. What was going on? Had her father received a request for money for her return? Did he know something about the murder and didn't want further involvement?
One thing was for sure, however, once Peter had made the trip and had committed to help, he was not going to pull away. He started investigating on his own, by starting with seeing a very old acquaintance who happened to be, perhaps, a psychopath!
Decker had put Chris Donati into prison--but he had also helped to get him out later. He had also helped Donati's lover and child with money when nobody would help her after Donati was imprisoned. Now, Peter wondered how Donati would receive him.
Donati had gone into a safer criminal enterprise. Human trafficking was a distant part of it, but Chris ensured that his girls were 18. His endeavors included helping young girls get off the street, and taking care of them. They could leave at any time, but, after the chrismaric Chris had cared for them, few left. And when they turned 18, they were photographed by Chris, who had become an expert photographer, and made them look very young... Thus satisfying the law as well as his clientele... Decker knew that he would have a tough time in stomaching what was being done to young girls, but he also knew that if Shayndie had turned to the streets, it was likely that she had hooked up with other girls who worked the streets... And that Chris might know where she was...
Faye Kellerman, in writing this story, has been willing to share Jewish characters who are both extremely conservative religious in dress, but who also have turned to the sex trade to meet their desires. And, that that same group could become involved in criminal activities in order to become richer. Finding all of this out was difficult for Peter. In the end, his brother (half) was the only member of this extended family who were willing to continue to help work to find the missing girl.
There is an intriguing secret interaction between Chris and Peter and Chris and Rina that nobody is talking about, but which acts to move the mystery forward. Still, it is just Peter and his brother who are caught in the final search, find and ultimate climax where Peter almost loses his life... One final note, I know it is my age and background, but I found the, in my opinion excessive use of offensive language by Peter overkill. Complicated case, complex family relationships and police and Chasidic members being part of the criminal acts was just...awkward, to say the least. To bad, it reminded me too much of reality these days--not a good thing. The mystery and action was intense though and worthy of your consideration!
I remember four and some years ago, I went into emergency to see about this big red spot on the side of my belly. After the tests and xrays, two doctors met with me and said, Well, we need to have your next of kin come down. The problem is, you have a bad infection and the mesh inside of you has spread it through you. There is nothing we can do.
I sat there in a daze staring into their eyes. I didn't have time to go home and check the mail or send out that bill. I didn't have time to think about anything other than getting ready to bow out. Fear didn't hit me for I have been like this at other times before in my life. I resigned myself and accepted that this was my time to leave.
One of the doctors broke the momentary silence and said to me, If you agree to sign this form we can take you into surgery and try to take care of you, no guarantees though. And so I agreed having nothing left to lose.
As they were preparing things, out of nowhere, this Asian man who I had never seen before, came up to me and asked if I would let him pray for me. I said yes. He dropped to one knee and placed his hands on my knee and prayed. In the operating room just before I knocked out from the shot, I asked the doctors and they let me pray for them.
When I woke up an older white man I used to work with, was standing there. I asked him what he was doing here, because no one but me at this point knew. He said, I came to pray for you. I haven't seen him since that time.
Somehow prayers were at work. We all had a prayer. All in agreement. Just happened, at that moment, for me. That's power. The next year almost to the day, I went through that all over again staying over a month in the hospital, having to get back the strength to walk. But, here I stand.
There is power in prayer.
If we doubt our prayers they just fade away. I am guilty of being like that at times. But with all the evidences of prayers answered, over a lifetime, I have no ground to stand on, to doubt. I have come to know... No Doubt...
“A girl should not expect special privileges because of her sex but neither should she adjust to prejudice and discrimination.” – Betty Friedan
“I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.” - Rosa Parks
International Women's Day is a global holiday celebrated annually on March 8 as a focal point in the women's rights movement, bringing attention to issues such as gender equality, and violence and abuse against women. Significance: Civil awareness day; Women and girls day; Anti-sexism day; Anti-Discrimination Day
Imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that's diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women's equality. Collectively we can all #EmbraceEquity.
“There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice.” – Michelle Obama
For most of my professional life, I was involved with rights (women and men)...Staff Council, Council for Women's Concerns and through the National Secretaries Association.
During the early years (1960-70s), at a major land-grant university, I saw many improvements.
Implementation of a Sexual Harassment policy and appointment of departmental representatives (I was named).
Attention began on equal pay for equal work. The pay ranking/job classification was updated. Policies were implemented regarding promotion or transfer to other departments.
Grievance policies and implementation were made to easily allow and review job classification.
An ADA Director was named and response to the needs of the disabled were implemented. I was greatly involved in upgrades of general-purpose classrooms to meet the needs of all those needing special assistance.
Affirmative Action was implemented and routinely used as a part of employee selection. As a hiring agent, I routinely worked to ensure that we met policies enacted by Human Resources.
Through the Council for Women's Concerns, or NSA, we sponsored training seminars on Duel-Career Marriages, Time Management, Inter-personal communication geared toward employment, et.al.
“My mother told me to be a lady. And for her, that meant be your own person, be independent.” – Ruth Bader Ginsberg
During the last decade of my career, I watched as new authoritarian presidents and/or line supervisors began working against Equity!
Now it has been very hard for me to see that there is a major effort for America to go backwards related to everything that had been accomplished... apparently because some do not wish women or minorities to be able to improve their life situation as do those identified as preferred by those who see themselves as white privileged...
I'd like to spotlight top issues that are happening in America and across the world... about which I am deeply concerned...
Education is all they wanted... they are being poisoned
“We are here, not because we are law-breakers; we are here in our efforts to become law-makers.” – Emmeline Pankhurst
In America, books related to history, sexuality, and women's health are being pulled so that they are not available for teens and adults. How are our young going to be able to be free-thinkers...?
“Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don’t believe is right.” – Jane Goodall
Women's health is going back to the dark ages as doctor's are afraid--due to political intervention
into what happens between patients and their doctors...
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt
Fear and Violence has become the norm
for our children and teens...
This is NOT RIGHT!
“The best protection any woman can have is courage.”
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton
MUST WE ALWAYS HAVE TO REINVENT THE WHEEL?
“You just gotta keep going and fighting for everything, and one day you’ll get to where you want. In a perfect dream, things would be set exactly the way you would want them. But I think it’s more interesting that in real life, things aren’t exactly the way you planned.” - Naomi Osaka
MAY THIS YEAR'S INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY BE THE BEGINNING OF YOUR MOVING NOT BACKWARDS BUT FORWARD...
“I’m basically a feminist. I think that women can do anything they decide to do.” - Grace Kelly