Excerpt for Murder Mystery Series Samples by C. D. Moulton by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Series Samples

C. D. Moulton

© 2018 by C. D. Moulton

all rights reserved: no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright holder/publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

These are works of fiction. Any resemblances to actual persons or events are purely coincidental unless otherwise stated.


He Did from C. D. Grimes series, book 2: The Later Years

Comedy Ain’t Funny from Nick Storie book 4: Night Shift

The Old Ways from Clint Faraday Mysteries book one: A Sometimes Thing

About the author

CD was born in Lakeland, Florida, in 1938. He is educated in genetics and botany. He has traveled over much of the world, particularly when he was in music as a rock rhythm guitarist with some well-known bands in the late sixties and early seventies. He has worked as a high steel worker and as a longshoreman, clerk, orchidist, bar owner, salvage yard manager and landscaper – among other things.

CD began writing fiction in 1984 and has more than 300 books published as of 3/15/16 in SciFi, murder, orchid culture and various other fields.

He now resides in Puerto Armuelles David and Gualaca, Chiriqui, Panamá, where he continues research into epiphytic plants and plays music with friends. He loves the culture of the indigenous people and counts a majority of his closer friends among that group. Several have “adopted” him as their father. He funds those he can afford through the universities where they have all excelled. “The Indios are very intelligent people, they are simply too poor (in material things and money. Culturally, they are very wealthy) to pursue higher education.”

CD loves Panamá and the people, despite horrendous experiences (Free e-book; Fading Paradise). He plans to spend the rest of his life in the paradise that is Panamá

- Estrelita Suarez V. de Jaramillo – 3/15/2016

CD is involved in research of natural cancer cure at this time. It has proven effective in all cases, so far. It is based on a plant that has been in use for thousands of years, is safe, available, and cheap. He has studied botany, and was cured of a serious lymphoma with use of the plant, Ambrosia peruviana.

Information about this cure is free on the FaceBook group, Natural medicine research. CD asks only that all who try it please report on its effectiveness on that group.

He Did

CD Grimes is a multi-millionaire [through no fault of his own] who solves cases in the old English style. He dies a few years after this story, and his grandson, also CD Grimes, takes over the detective business and later moves to Florida. The books after this one [of shorts] are more modern, but CD uses the same methods to solve the cases. He is, like all my detectives, a problem solver, not a violence freak. He is a moral person, and there is no graphic sex or such in the stories. There is a huge library of those.

He Did

"OK, so I'm not proud of myself, but what else could I do?" I asked of my wife, Sheila.

I'm CD Grimes, of the C. D. Grimes Detective Agency, and I had just told my son, Charles Jerome, that I considered him to be the world's foremost snit. He had seemed shocked and had slammed out of the place.

I can't seem to get through to him I don't want more money – that I'm trying to get rid of most of what I have. I've always tried and have always failed to make him understand that money is one royal pain to me, but he worships it for some reason. He had come to the estate to tell me my personal profits were up 17.5% over last year.

Last year I made close to fifty million dollars, and had given most of it away. I inherited all those conglomerates and such when Sheila's father, JR Crane, died and left me - are you ready for this? – 40 billion dollars. Both Sheel and I spend a good bit of our time finding causes we think are worthy to give the stuff to, and Charles Jerome just can't stop himself from accumulating more and more of the stuff.

"Look, honey," I said. "You know Charles Jerome and Lee are, next to you, the most important things in my life and that I love them, but I have never been able to understand him. Where does he get that ridiculous fixation on money?"

"He's had it since he was two years old, CD," she said. “I got a letter from Lee this morning, speaking of her. She's coming to the states next week for Adam's tenth birthday. It's been four years since we've been there for more than a week at a time, and Adam has never seen the states, so they're all coming over.

"Will's trying to buy her out, but she thinks she wants to keep the ranch. Adam's Australian all the way, so he won't want to come here.

"You'll have to stop campaigning for Willis while she's in town, you know. He can't win against that machine and he really does want to move to California. I wrote a letter to that town where the guy was murdered in the next room to us in the hotel. They have a town council that will hire him as chief of police as of February first, next year. They'll pay him more than Grombey County ever did, because they could definitely use someone who knows what he's doing!"

Willis Turner was our sheriff since Buford died, but things were changing. Nicely (God, I hate that name!) was now too big, and had its own police department. Politics have made a once very good and honest system a shambles, as all things are done to by today's politics. I would hate to see Willis go, as he was our best friend in the area, along with Horace Greely, our orchid grower, and Cliff Ashton the Second's, our butler and his wife, that Wilson girl. She thought she was pregnant and they hope to raise the family's next butler, who will be Cliff the Third.

It used to be that people in Grombey County all sort of got along. No one tried to run anyone else's life, but now it was some kind of disgrace that a billionaire like me had his closest friends in a black sheriff, a black horticulturist, and his so-called servants, and that saddens me. I was once a snob, but that was before I had a pot or window, and I was never a bigot. Now everyone I meet is a snob or a bigot – or both.

I have very good close friends that have been made friends by life's experiences. The rest can kiss my royal ass!

Sorry. I tend to get that way more and more. I was just 62, and Sheel says I ought to retire my body because I've already retired my brain.

It would be good to see Lee, and I was rather proud of little Adam. He had taken on a hell of a lot of responsibility for a kid when his father had been killed in that fire. I saw JR in him, and was glad I didn't see his other grandparents, who were Lord and Lady Corby-Hines in England – two of the most stuffy people in the world!

Forgive me if I reminisce a little?

I was getting to the age where I would have to hire a pilot for the jet, and probably a chauffeur. I still could pilot and drive very well, but I have a belief about those things. It's on the order that your abilities to do things diminishes at about the same rate as your inability to recognize your limitations are growing. There are things you shouldn't do – starting before you kill yourself or someone else.

I could bet I would be one hard person to drive or fly for, though. I'm not anything if not blunt and I'm stubborn as anyone....

Oh well.

I decided to head for the greenhouse to work in some of those new crosses when Cliff called to say that Willis was on the phone for me.

I picked it up. "Yeah, Willis?" I said.

"Want a little diversion?" he asked.

"What you got?" I said.

"Connie Benson in Langston, Earl Benson in Warmoth," he said. "Mean anything to you?"

"Yeah. Constance Lawton-Benson was Earl Benson's sister-inlaw. They both died of food poisoning. Connie two weeks ago and Earl last week," I replied. "It was botulism. The coroner's report left no doubt. Some kind of canned stuff, wasn't it?"

"Will you still believe it if I tell you Matthew Benson, Connie's husband and brother of Earl, died of botulism – last night?" he said.

"Not a damned chance!" I cried. "Two's a coincidence. Three's murder."

"Kotch is home with the flu, so you can ride around with me on this if you like," he said. "I'm not letting on that I'm overly suspicious."

"I'll be there in half an hour," I promised.

"My trouble is finding a motive, then I can concentrate on how," Willis complained. "It's not like they're leaving a bunch of money to anyone. They don't seem to have much of anything.

"We're calling on Kenneth Benson, surviving brother, then Elinor Benson-Krause, the sister. After that we have an uncle, two aunts, and two first cousins."

We were driving toward Langston, where Matthew had lived for years. Warmoth was in Coulter County, and Kenneth lived in Langston in Grombey County.

"Elinor Krause lives in Cloverdale, over in Lacrosse County, so I can't do anything there or in Warmoth, but you can. You're state licensed.

"Purl will work to change that, too, you know. I'm the end of an era in this state, CD. I hope Sheila told you I don't really care to run hard against Purl. I want to go to California, where there's a job there waiting for me. A damned good one!"

"I know," I said.

We found the house, and talked to Kenneth, who was bewildered by the whole thing. He said he didn't see how three people in the same family living in separate towns could all die of anything as rare as botulism. I told him we didn't either. That's why the questions.

We were in a plain car, with Willis in plain clothes, so we went to see Elinor. I did all the talking. She was at as much of a loss as we were. No, no big inheritance. Just the farm on route 9 that was as much as abandoned. Ground was no good for anything. All slimy clay. They couldn't even sell it! Hell, they couldn't give it away!

We went back to Grombey County. I asked Willis to take the long route back. 7 was faster, but I wanted to go 9 to check out that farm. We located it by the directions Elinor gave us. It was across route 9 from where that barn with the crazy scientist's Fu Manchu experiments had burned down a few years back.

I knew that place. JR and I had burned the barn. We walked around the three hundred plus acres for the better part of the afternoon while I took samples of the bluish-grey clay that covered more than half of it. There was plenty of clay in the area, but this seemed to be deep, although most of what was around was no more than a few inches. It was a little valley that the stuff had washed into over the centuries, I supposed, but why would anyone want clay? It wasn't even the limestone/clay stuff they used for roadbeds.

We drove back into town, where I took the gooey clay to the coroner's.

That may seem a strange thing to do at first glance, but JR and later myself had given the coroner's office the finest forensic's lab in the state, and I was certain Doctor Wickens could find anything important about it.

It didn't take any equipment. Wickens took one look and said, "Hmm. It's bauxite. It's in a thin layer in several spots around, particularly over by Coulter River north of Langston, but there are no commercial deposits. You have to be able to get at least a million tons from a location to make it worthwhile."

"Why would anyone even want it?" Willis asked. "You can't grow anything in it!"

"Oh, yes you can," I said. "You can grow airplanes in it!"

"What do you mean?" he asked.

"Bauxite is aluminum ore," I answered. "Would you say this is high grade, Doctor?"

He said, "Mmmph!", took a bottle, packed a little cube full of the stuff, weighed it on a scale, then weighed it hanging in a beaker of water.

"Specific gravity says it's very high grade," he said. "If you could get any quantity of this stuff you could end up with a percent or two of your billions."

"Tomorrow we go back out there with a piece of conduit," I suggested. Willis nodded and we left it for the night. In the morning, Willis had an officer to go out to locate the wills of the various people involved and to check the property deed, then we went out to the farm with a twenty foot length of conduit and a hacksaw. I took the conduit to an open area, where I started to work it into the sloppy wet clay. Willis helped, and we were able to work almost the whole length into the clay. Pulling it out was no picnic, be we did it.

There was clay in the bottom and I sawed off a piece of the conduit about a foot up. It was solid clay.

"We can take it back, but the clay is more than twenty feet deep here, so we can say we have an average of ten feet deep over a hundred and fifty acres," I said. "A cubic yard weighs about three quarters of a ton, wet like this. Let's say half a ton, so we get one ton for two cubic yards. There are forty nine hundred square yards to an acre, one fifty acres, so that's...(I punched it out on my little pocket calculator I paid eight bucks for) seven thirty five thousand square yards. It will average, say, three yards deep, making two million, two hundred five thousand cubic yards at four fifty one a yard is nine million seven twenty four thousand fifty bucks if you merely let them haul it out and dig it your-self.

"Is ten million bucks enough motive for you?"

"Jeeeesuus!" Willis cried.

"That's for medium grade usable ore," I replied. "This stuff would bring about five ten or so."

"Jeeeesuus!" he said again.

We took the conduit back into town and I showed it to Wickens, who asked, "I take it this has something to do with the fact that Willis told me to hold up the death certificate on Benson?

"He died of botulism. Period."

"We don't pretend to doubt that at all," I said. "How was it administered?"

"Lima beans from the stomach content," he said.

"Green limas?" I asked.

"No," he replied.

"Dried beans, cooked up, cooled, botulism germs added, let it sit awhile – what else in the stomach?" I asked.

"Bacon bits, tomato, sweet bell pepper, onion, bouillon, touch of Tabasco, bit of garlic, coffee," he said.

"Make a spicy dish, lace it with botulism. That equals murder one," I said. "What about the others?"

"I'll find out and tell you in the morning," he promised.

Willis and I left. I went home to make some calls to have my staff at the Crane Aerospace Electronic Guidance Systems/CIRCrane plant start looking for information, then went back to the orchid house.

The phone buzzed after a time and Willis said that Kenneth Benson was in the hospital in Langston being treated for botulism poisoning. "He had some gumbo in the refrigerator, and took a few bites. It tasted funny, and we had sort of alerted him, so he had his neighbor rush him in," Willis reported. "He took the gumbo leftovers with him. It's full of the stuff. The doctors can't figure how it got that strong under refrigeration. He'll be sick for awhile and will have a sensitive stomach for years, but he'll recover."

"Call Elinor and caution her not to eat any-thing at home," I suggested.

"I've called everybody in the family and told them they're in danger of being murdered, and have told them all to make a quick will leaving any interest in the farm they may have or acquire to the cancer fund or something," he replied. "One of them will realize we're on to it, but that's better than another murder."

"Whoever it is has left a trail," I said.

In the morning, we went to all the family members to tell them how the wills were set up in the two cases where there were wills and how they would inherit. When they learned the value of the bauxite they all got greedy and did the stupidest thing possible. The survivors were all to split the farm equally.

I was disgusted. As we left I told them, "You can lay in bed at night now and remember three people have already been murdered over this crap. You have made and signed a document that gives the whole enchilada to the last one alive.

"Enjoy your breakfast, suckers!"

They stared their defiance. The only one who hadn't signed the thing was Kenneth, so we went to the hospital to tell him about it.

"I could have told you they'd do that!" he said. "Greedy bunch of idiots! No Benson ever had any sense! Not in this family!

"There's a kid in that room over there dying of AIDS. It could tear your heart out. He's a hemophiliac and has a bad enough time without that. If you two will witness it, I'll sign a thing right here and now leaving everything I have to AIDS research. Maybe that'll keep them from knocking me off. I don't want to have to look over my shoulder everywhere I go. I'll be scared to death to eat anything for the rest of my life, now."

We had a notary from the legal staff come in for us to make a will that we witnessed before leaving.

"What now?" Willis asked.

"I've got my staff doing a search to find who's been contacted and by whom," I said. "They didn't find the value of that stuff by themselves. I'll let you know as soon as I have any answers."

I went home, and worked in the greenhouses until the following morning, when Laelia and Adam came in. I was a bit surprised at the huge change in Lee. She had always been strong in her convictions, but I found she was now a member of several groups in Australia trying to protect the environment or doing work with orphans and with children's diseases. She was meeting with people here, and would take some material back with her and would leave some here.

I remembered a children's hospital I had funded heavily a few years ago in Louisiana, so called to have the famous Dr. Ehrick T. Meyers meet with her there the following week. She would go to Lousiana Monday, elections were Tuesday and Willis didn't want to be re-elected sheriff, so I would fly her to Louisiana if the case was finished. It should be.

We couldn't find any company that had even surveyed the farm! There wasn't any way we could find which one was killing his or her kin for the ore. Maybe they would be more careful now. It wouldn't matter if I was gone for two lousy days.

I flew Laelia and Adam on to Louisiana to introduce them to Dr. Meyers. I really dropped back into the past for a moment.

When I met Sheila for the first time, I knew she was going to be my wife, and so did she. It happened again right before my eyes. Laelia and Meyers' eyes met and it was like a sudden bolt of lightning.

I knew Meyers was married. I had met his wife ten years or so ago. They had a kid at the time. This was bad! Ehrick tore his eyes from Lee and said, "Sarah died three years ago in that jet that went down out of Denver."

Lee looked puzzled.

"I'm going to marry you and your father knows I'm already married," Ehrick said. "I could see in his face he didn't know of Sarah's death."

Lee smiled and said, "Oh? You two have agreed on this now?"

"Yup!" I said. "Looks like there's no way out of it."

That night I had a difficult time bringing myself to talk to Adam, but I needn't have worried. He said he was glad "Moms" had found someone, because he would be able to spend less and less time with her as he grew older. He had to take on more and more responsibility at the ranch.

He's only ten, for Christ's sake! Sheila later told me Will had prepared him from the first for his mother's remarriage, or even taking a lover. "The Aussies are very practical people," she said. "It saves time and heartache to prepare for these things as you go."

It's all too modern and open for me!

I went back to Nicely to find Purl strutting around the place. I also saw Willis tell him he would be sheriff in two months, and not before. Until that time, it was the responsibility of Willis Turner to run the office, because he would brook no interference when it came to the law and justice.

Purl got the message. We all knew he was owned by the worst element and nothing would change for them until he was actually in office.

That was Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday Tom Buskins, first cousin of the two present owners of the Benson ranch, was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

"That tells us it's someone at least that far down the line," Willis said.

Sunday, Uncle Milt drowned while fishing alone on the Coulter River.

Wednesday Elinor almost fell down a long flight of marble stairs at Gus's Emporium. She insisted she was pushed, but she managed to catch the rail. I talked her into changing her will, leaving the farm to the heart fund if she died. That took the two present owners out of it and the plot to inherit was thwarted, but we still didn't know who the murderer was.

Then Kohishi Metal Industries came to town.

Of course! That's why we couldn't find the company making a deal for the bauxite! They were Japanese, not American!

I contacted them through CIRCrane to find they had talked with a Mr. Earl Benson, so it would seem Earl talked to someone else.

"Last week Mr. Benson signed an agreement that is legally binding on anyone who owns the property," Mr. Tokimoto said. "He presented the agreement to me at our meeting then. We had insisted upon full protections in both previous meetings, three months ago. There is some sort of agreement among all of them. A survivor's agreement. I understand that Mr. Benson is now dead and that others now hold the property, but the use agreement stands. The funds go to the present owners."

I thanked him and hung up.

"What are you grinning about?" Sheila asked. "You look like you just swallowed the canary."

"Our murderer has outwitted himself," I said and got the car out to drive into Nicely to go to the sheriff's department.

"Want to go arrest our murderer?" I asked Willis.

"Know who it is?" he asked.

"Kenneth," I said. "Let's go."

He shrugged and we drove out.

"How do you figure?" he asked. "I know the poisoning he got was to throw us off if he did it, but what do you have?"

"According to the buyers of the bauxite, Earl Benson was the person dealing with them."

"So Kenneth took over? How do you figure?" he asked.

"They spoke with Mr. Earl Benson, who told them there was an agreement to sell among the family members," I said. "Last week."

"But he was dead!" Willis cried. "So when Kenny took over he still used Earl's name so we would follow the wrong trail."

"He presented the agreement in person last week," I said. "He was told about the necessity of the agreement when they met three months ago."

"Two million bucks wasn't enough for Kenny, so he made the deals and started killing off the family. The uncle and cousin were to lay a false trail for us."

"He got the idea of growing botulism from that scientist who was growing those things in the barn that burned down across nine from the farm," he said. "Are we going to be able to prove any of this?"

"If Mr. Tokimoto identifies Kenneth as Earl, the one he dealt with three months ago, we've got him – and he will," I said.

He did.

Comedy Ain’t Funny

Det. Lt. Nick Storie is a person who takes his job seriously. He is a problem solver, and becomes more pragmatic as the years go on. He has a habit of befriending the nation’s biggest mobsters and gaining their respect – to the point they will often help him with his cases. These are more police procedural types of stories.[No pun intended]

Comedy Ain’t Funny


"So I sez ta him, `What New York? I'm from Texas!'" The crowd sniggered. Geof Gene was dying out there, and the rest of the show was enjoying it.

"Seein' as I lost you already 'n we all'd rather be lookin' at Lana La Lump doin' the grind 'n bump, you don't know what it's like bein' in this business!"

That was a transition that'd make Silvers and Schone cringe! Their constant "Timing! It's all timing!" routine back in their capped teeth!

"No! I mean it! Really! You all don't have any idea what I have to go through!

"See, I worked for a lot of years to learn this here, what ya call, pro-fesh-ee-un! Burned the candle 'n all that kinda crap for ten whole years, 'n what do I get? (This was a blatant rip-off of a great old Paul Lynde routine, but it couldn't get anymore down than it already was, so what the hell? Besides! Unlike the crap they gave him, it seemed to be working!)

"I'll tell ya what I get!

"I get to work in this kinda dump – for a dollar under minimum wage, that’s what I get! (Pick up the pace. Don't add so much.)

"I get to eat in McDonald's 'n drink discount beer!

"I get to live in a by-the-hour cheap hotel!

"All those cheap broads I get to hang out with all the time are nothin' but a bunch of nymphos, hookers and strippers!

"God! I love this business!"

He had them now! They were calling for more! Up your stinking ass, Silvers! Stick it, Schone!

"Hey! Did you get a look at Joe, the guy on the organ? Didn't even get his pants all the way back on before he had to run back for the last show!

"Hey, Joe! We all gotta agree you got to use condoms nowadays, what with the fact a quickie could be a quickie funeral a little down the line, but we don't need to see half of one hanging out your fly!"

Yelling and razzing at Joe. Hoots and cat-calls. Joe standing up and bowing at the audience.


"And Phil, our singer. He didn't have his pants all the way on (Pause and look confused, mug shock, do a double take, wink at the broad with the huge honkers sitting at the front table) ... er, that is, uh, either? (Pause, brighten up.) Moving right along! Did you hear...."

They ate it up. The rest of the show rolled. He had to stay on a solid ten minutes over, and it was all ad-lib. It was what once almost got him to the big time. Sure, it was bawdy, but this was a damned strip joint! Whaddaya expect?

Then he'd signed with Silvers, who suggested he do a script, but didn't push too hard – until the great Eric Schone signed an exclusive promo contract for a traveling old Vaudeville act and insisted on writers.

He'd break that contract or get out of the rotten business. He wasn't going to embarrass himself for one more night trying to put across some other crud’s unfunny lines.

As he walked off the stage, Joe and Phil gave him the "smokin' job!" sign, so they didn't mind being the butt of his routine. Lana LaLaine, the stripper, gave him a cold look for calling her Lana La Lump, but so what? She was past it, if you got close, and should get into something more suitable.

Mike Silvers and Eric Schone came to make their comments, Mike saying that was the old Geof, and Schone whining that everything was way off and they'd never live that act down now. Years of honing his skills and one night blew it all to hell!

"Then let's just cancel our little deal and move on," Geof said, coldly. "You don't have any idea of what a comic does!

"God! I wish I'd known you don't have a sense of humor before I ever let Mike con me into going with you!

"Let's both go our own ways. You do Greek tragedies and Mike and I'll do the comics routine."

"You signed a seven year contract! You have four and a half to go!" Schone snarled. "You will do exactly what I tell you or you will not work!"

"Now, fellows!" Mike inserted. "Calm down!

"Listen, Eric! Geof's a spontaneous comic. He don't work with a script very well. He has to feel what the crowd wants and give them that. You got to loosen it up, damn it! You're killing him!"

"If he would simply follow the script properly and work on his poor timing, the act would work," Schone replied, stiffly. "Acting always depends on timing and sincerity. He's killing himself!"

"This isn't acting, you halfassed idiot!" Geof snarled. "It's comics! Don't you see what just happened out there? I followed your script, and died, then I did spontie, and brought the house down! You can't go on killing me and you can't go on killing my act! You can't go on killing Mike, either! Sooner or later somebody's gonna start killing back!"

"If you ever make rude remarks about me again I'll do a little killing of my own!" Lana announced, coming to them. "As to your getting out of the show, I was here long before you were added. I'm the main feature and I could well do without some coarse comedian.

"Eric, I hear you've been looking for a new exotic dancer, all of a sudden. I suggest you think very carefully about that. I’m the star here! I carry this crude show!"

"You are an aging stripper – with a contract that holds four more months," Eric said, coldly. "There is no star here. The basic concept is the reason the show remains successful, despite the complete lack of talent among the individuals. You and your boyfriend, Phil, are finished in four more months. Until that time, you will perform precisely the way you've signed a contract to perform. That goes for you too, Geof. You are a professional who is under contract to me, and you WILL meet the terms of that contract to the letter!"

"I'll see that nobody ever signs any new contracts with you," Mike threatened. "I can do it. You know I can do it!"

"You’re also an everyday has-been!" Schone snapped. "Not one of your clients has the talent to hold an audience!"

"We might just see about that!" Mike replied, but there was no heart in it.

"Ah-hem! Excuse me? I'm Jane Lance, chief features reporter with the Naples Nightowler," an attractive small, dark woman said, stepping around some props. "Do I hear right? Dissension among the troops? Murder in the air?"

"Yeah. About as much as usual," Mike replied, giving Geof a hard warning look. "Standard show time jitters. We’ll fight like cats until the show's over, then sit around saying how good everybody is. The concept of old routines with more modern subject matter causes a lot of tension."

Phil came off the stage, waving at the audience. Lana moved regally toward the curtains, adjusting her drop-away bodice. She stopped him and said something. He replied just loudly enough to be heard, "That suits me just fine! I've got offers where I can make some real money!"

He went on past, ignoring Schone, but giving a thumbs up to Geof.

"One thing I heard that wasn't part of nerves is that you intend to replace Lana LaLaine?" Jane asked.

"Strippers – exotic dancers – can't perform well after a certain age," Schone replied, sarcastically. "Her attitude of being a star doesn't help any. She signed a legal contract under which she knew she would be replaced after a certain time. She was offered a new position as a comedienne, but has refused it; therefore, she WILL shortly be replaced.

"Excuse me. I have work to do." He turned his back rudely, and walked away.

"Lovely person!" Jane grinned at Mike and Geof. "I suppose his type's necessary to the business. He could still use some manners!"

"He could use an ax to the side of his head!" Mike returned the grin. "But like you say, his type's just a part of the business. That doesn't mean anyone has to like him."

"He takes people with some talent and tries to fit them into his own tight little slot," Geof complained. "He has no sense of humor. He destroys people. Sooner or later, he'll get his!"

"It'll make a juicy filler for my column – except it's fluff," Jane said. "People have learned to expect this kind of thing from performers and agents."

"He's no agent!" Mike snapped, hotly. "He's a lousy damned two-bit promoter! There's a world of difference!"

"He only puts up the finances?" Jane asked.

"No. He merely holds contracts," Geof replied. "He acts as a sort of producer and director and books the act. I have to work on some new material. Will you forgive me if I go lock myself in my dressing room?"

"I have to talk with some people, a new singing act in town here," Mike said. "I'll catch you in the morning, Geof. A pleasure meeting you, Miss Lance. Try to crucify that obnoxious lousy bastard and leave the guys alone, huh?"

"Will do!" Jane answered, and waved as she went to watch the end of Lana's act from the wings.

"It wasn't reallyso bad after the comedian found what the audience wanted," Harry Sledge, owner of the dinner theater, said to his wife, Ann, as they locked the back door. "That Lana person really looks good in the proper light and from a distance. The singer's adequate and the organist is good. Should we book them again this year? That Schone ass says they have one free week in August. By then he'll have a new young stripper to carry things, though this one’s good."

"August? Don't we have a full ... Harry, is that a drunk over there?" Ann replied. "So help me! If Cookie let some drunk come out here to pass out I'll can him! No one is to be in this alley after closing!"

Harry went over to nudge the fellow sitting against the wall between the big Dumpster and the recycling bin with his toe. The man slowly leaned to the side and toppled. Yuhhh! Sheez!" Harry cried. "It's Schone! Oh, god! I'm gonna be sick! I got blood all over my shoe!

"Call the police, Ann! Nine one one! Oh, shit!"


It was one AM. One more hour and Lt. Nathaniel "Nick" Storie of Naples South Station, Homicide, could go home. It was finally summer. The tourists were gone from south Florida, and things were quiet in the department. Nick had finished his paperwork and finally had all the past season's files in order. Bill Jenks, burglary, came in to grin and talk about the way some guy had boxed himself inside a large crate he then delivered to a flea market a few minutes before closing time up in Lee County. The manager became suspicious and opened the big crate, catching the would-be Trojan Horseman.

The 9-1-1 line lit up. Bill took it, simply because more than two thirds of the time it would be for him anyhow, after midnight This time, he handed it to Nick.

"Lt. Storie. Homicide. How may I help you?"

He listened a minute, wrote down the address, looked up at the clock, sighed heavily for Bill's benefit, and punched for the forensics crew. "Another lousy hour and it would have been Ed's headache!" Nick grinned, sighed, shook his head, saluted, and headed for the dinner theater.

The body was in heavy shadows between garbage Dumpsters. The owners were going home after locking up the place and had seen someone they thought was sitting against the wall either drunk or asleep. The owner had gone over to roust him, he had fallen over, and the split across the side of his head was center view to them.

"Are you two the only ones who come out this way?" Nick asked Harry Sledge. "Why wasn't he seen earlier?"

"We're the only ones who would look around for anyone. The rest only work here, and leave in little groups. They're generally chatting among themselves, so they probably wouldn't notice anyone there. It's dark and hard to see in there. Ann and I always look around. We were broken into once, so we learned to check everything as we go."

"Do you know who he is?"

"Yes. I didn't look too long, but I'm pretty sure he's Eric Schone, the promo man for the show."

"Do you know of anyone who might want him dead?"

"Only anyone who worked for him, I'd think," Mrs. Sledge said, quickly. "There was a kind of nasty altercation earlier, backstage. He told Miss LaLaine he was getting a new dancer. A reporter for The Nightowler, Jane Lance, walked into the middle of it and told me. She insisted he had to be the rudest, most obnoxious one person she'd ever met in the business."

"Did you witness anything, directly?"

They both shook their heads. "We stay away from the show end," Harry said. "We greet the guests and do the book work. We'll say hello to all of them, but never discuss the business, except with promoter or agent contract things."

"Yo-oh! Here it is!" a forensics man called, from the recycling Dumpster. "Hey, Frog! Lights, camera, action!"

"Excuse me," Nick said. "If you wish, you can go home. I have your address. I can take a statement here tomorrow. We may have to work inside some tonight. If you'll please leave me a key, I'll accept full responsibility. You can stay if you like, but, if you need the rest as much as you probably do, don't worry about things. I know the people in the crew."

Mrs. Sledge unlocked the rear door and said he could flip the auto-lock lever when they were through, and it would lock and activate the alarm automatically. She didn't think it likely anyone would try to break in with so many police around, anyhow.

"We generally wouldn't allow anyone, police or not, to run around the place without us here," Harry said. "You have quite the reputation, Lt. Storie. We've heard a good bit about the trouble at the bar a few months ago when that Cerf woman killed the man on a boat, and we’ve heard about the thing with that rock band. Hard Times."

"Paddy James also lives a couple of blocks from us, and Joan and I play bridge, often," Ann added. "She says you're so honest you squeak.

"I hope this is over soon. I know it has to be one of the show people or an employee. It's an odd feeling to realize someone you've probably talked to today killed someone else you talked to today."

"It could also be an old girlfriend or jealous husband," Nick said. "I have to see what they've found in the trash."

"Eric Schone?" Harry scoffed. "It was most definitely not any girl-friend or husband, Lt. Storie. If you'd ever been around him for thirty seconds you would never even consider it."

Nick grinned, and waved. Frog was in the Dumpster taking flash pictures, so he went over.

"What did you find there?" he asked Grady Orsenski, the forensics man who had called.

"A meat cleaver, big as an ax! Wrapped in a wad of plastic bags and pushed under other crap. It's gonna be the MW."

"What’s up?" Dr. David Klein, medical examiner, asked, coming from examining the body.

"Murder weapon," Grady said. "A meat cleaver thing."

"Could be," Klein said. "It's a hell of a wound.

"He's been dead about an hour and a half to three hours, Nick. I'd say that somebody was laying for him. Stepped out from between the containers, smacked him, and drug him back into the shadows. The angle and direction of the blow says a right-handed swing. If the MW was heavy, it could be male or female to cause the damage. Can't tell height. Too average. Five six to six two, which includes about half the people in the whole damned world!

"I'm taking it in now. Will you want anyone to stay to help here?"

"Frog, if you don't need him. I want to find out why he's on every case, day or night." "Frog" Forest was the photographer. He was good.

"Because he has an apartment across the alley from the lab, and is available. He only works on time required, which includes processing shots and all that rot, so he usually has a few hours overtime.

"I'll get a report to you soonest. It's not going to say much you can't see right here, this time."

Nick nodded and went toward the door. Frog came up carrying the big flash. They went inside and spent half an hour more looking around, but couldn't see anything obvious – except for one bloody piece of tissue in the kitchen wastebasket. The blood seemed far too fresh to be from the meat, so Nick bagged it after Frog took his pictures. There was a promo photo of the stage group near the door, a few feet inside. The victim may have dropped it, or anyone else, but Nick carefully bagged it after the blood. It was odd it was there at all, as spotless as the kitchen was.

"We got a time of death at between nine forty five and ten fifteen," Tiny (The regular coroner, "Tiny" Menthorne) reported in the morning.

When there was a difficult case, Nick worked double shifts, so was there at eight thirty AM.

"The meat cleaver was the MW. Blood and hair and a perfect fit to the murder wound. That tissue Frog brought in contained his blood and some oxblood shoe polish, so the killer got blood on his shoe. We got three partial sets of prints from the photo. You know the rest."

"Gee! You’ve had five whole hours already! You don't even know who handled the picture yet?" Nick grinned.

"Some idiot cop got his prints all over everybody elses'!" Tiny shot back. "There was also a little bit of stage makeup on the photo. Heavy greasepaint type stuff." He handed Nick a copy of the photo and a preliminary report.

"Thanks, Tiny," Nick said. "I guess I'll have a go at them all. It was Schone? Positive?"

"Yeah. He immigrated from Germany, so we got his prints over the comps," Tiny replied.

Capt. Paddy James, head of violent crimes, came out of his office with Lt. Jim Hill, day shift homicide, to discuss the case a minute. Sgt. Marsha Blevins, aide and secretary (And the real power in the office) joined them to listen. It was much too early to make any prognosis, but Marsha reminded Nick that it was his own theory that murders must be solved within seventy two hours or they became more difficult cases.

When they'd finished Nick drove over to the theater. It was far too early for anyone to be there, but Harry Sledge was. "I couldn't sleep, so I came over to putter around a bit. I don't suppose you can tell me what progress you've made?"

"Some. He died at ten o'clock, plus or minus fifteen minutes. It was a heavy meat cleaver, probably from this kitchen. The killer laid for him out there, so maybe you can help me. Who was definitely either on stage or with you during that time?"

"Lana's the last act in the routine, then they break. The break's half an hour. The organist from the club usually entertains, but he's got the flu, so their organist filled.

"Geof Gene, the comic, went over ten minutes, so the break came ten minutes late, so the next show started at ten ten instead of ten. The organist was the only one I can say was in sight all that time."

"Well! One suspect’s been eliminated! We progress!" Nick said. "I won't play silly games with you. Everyone here at the time has to be accounted for. Where were you? With whom?"

Harry grinned. "I was ... ten o'clock ... with Ann and Luke Chow, my kitchen manager, and Joe DiMartini, my head chef, in my office. We were working on special seafood menus for next week."

"Then we progress even more.You, your wife, your manager and your chef are out of it – unless you cleverly arranged to go to the restroom, or something such."

"We don't break our meetings. We do all that first, then sit there until the job's done.That only leaves you one hundred forty four patrons, the show people, that reporter, and nine other workers here to go."

"Did the show people have a specified place where they would get together between the shows?"

"They didn't seem to mix much. I think none of them liked one another. The comic, Geof Gene, and his agent stayed together a lot, and Lana and the singer seemed to have a thing going."

Nick nodded, and thought, then took out the picture. "Do you know why this would be laying just inside of your back door last night?"

"Inside the back door? Where?"

Nick pointed.

"You mean after we left? It wasn't! Ann or myself would’ve seen it!"

"I came in and found it right there," Nick said, dropping the copy as close to the spot where they found it as he could remember.

"Impossible! It was not there when Ann and I left! There is nothing on the floor when we close at night, Lt. Storie. My insistence on that is the staff's most unfunny joke. I'm so fastidious about the kitchen, you wouldn't believe it. I once had an inspection and got a bad mark and big fine for some crap someone had dropped and didn't pick up immediately. It cost me a lot of business for months. The report in the papers made it sound like we dropped all our garbage on the kitchen floor!"

Nick thought seriously for a minute, flipping the photo on his thumb. Harry asked to see the picture, and Nick handed it to him.

"This must be the new stripper he's hiring. It's not Lana. It's some-body else ... Geof isn't in it, and neither is Phil.

"This isn't a picture of the group playing here. It must be the one Schone was putting together."

"I heard he was dumping the stripper, but you say he'd changed everybody?"

"All I know is that he said he'd have a new younger stripper by August. He was dumping Lana. He wanted a booking. He showed me a promo photo, but I didn't really look at it. It may have been that one.

"Lt. Storie, Schone didn't drop that picture there. It was not there when Ann and I closed!"

"Call me Nick. I've got to talk with the reporter who was here, Jane Lancer?"

"No. Jane Lance. We’ve got her phone number in the files. She heard them arguing about the show."

Harry got the number for him. Nick called and arranged to meet her in fifteen minutes in a coffee shop, then called in to talk with Tiny.

"Who? The prints on the photo?"

"Schone, Harold Sledge, the owner of the bar, and one we haven't traced, yet. The one we haven't traced going to be it?"

"I think so. I think our killer waited inside the door, watching us through the security slit, as we did the investigation this morning. I'll have to find out how he got out of there without setting off the alarm."

"Did you or Frog stay where you could see the door from when you went in until you set the alarm?"

"I see. We went to look around the place, and he slipped out. That means he was probably in the kitchen when we found the picture and the bloody paper.

"Thanks, Tiny. Maybe I can use that!" He hung up.

"About what time does everybody get here?" he asked Harry.

"The show people? Around six or so."

"I'll see you then. It's gonna be Nero Wolfe time!"

"You know who did it?!"

"No. I only know within six people, but we knew that all along. I'll know by then. It's the little things that screw you up, isn't it? You had some employee who dropped some stuff and it gave you a black mark and cost you business – and our killer dropped a picture."

Jane Lance was an attractive woman. She also had an impish "fun" personality.

"They tried to pass it off as show nerves. It wasn't that! That comic kept saying someone would kill the Schone asshole. The agent, Silvers, said someone should split his head with an ax or something. Lana said she'd do a little killing of her own. It was something!"

"The agent said someone should split his head with an ax?"

"I think it was him, but ... oh, my god! I knew he was dead from a blow to the head, but it was an ax?!"

"It was what was described by the man who found it, `A meat cleaver,big as an ax,. His head was most definitely split open."

"Brrr! I don't think he did it. Maybe Lana. She's their big super-star who's going to be replaced."

"A big super-star?"

"If you don't believe that, just ask her!" Jane grinned. "You haven't met her? That’ll be fun!"

"No. None of them."

"You're in for quite a treat! Don't call her a stripper. She's an exotic dancer.

"She once got an offer to act. She's really got the body for what she does. She keeps in shape with exercises, and it isn't sagging or anything yet, but she couldn't stand a close-up. She uses some heavy make-up."

"Grease paint?"

"More or less."

"What about the one who said Schone should get a literal ax?"

"Mike Silvers? I doubt he'd have the guts. He has a few other clients, but nobody special. Geof could have hit the bigtime once, but Schone stifled him into virtual obscurity. Mike signed the deal first, then Geof. Schone had wild delusions. He considered himself some kind of bigtime producer/director with some talent, but he had no sense of humor. He hired expensive writers for his comic – who came up with material that wasn't suited.

"Geof had lost the crowd last night, then said, ‘To hell with it!’ and did a spontaneous set. It was an enormous hit, because that's his kind of act. He can think fast and can mug at the right spot to make a meaning reverse itself in your mind.

"Last night he made some jokes about one of the members of the show, then about another one and sort of stopped, got an expressive surprised/shocked look on his face, and suddenly changed the subject, forcing the joke to hit you right between the eyes. Common schtick slapstick, but effective.

"The second show was freewheeling all the way, and was even a lot bigger. That's what started the fight backstage. Schone was whining about Geof not following the unfunny script, and Geof wanted out of his contract. Mike tried to smooth it all over and to get Schone to lighten up so Geof could do what Geof does. Schone was adamant about Geof following the script. He said Geof had a contract, and he would stick to that contract, word for word."


"She came up and mentioned something about being replaced and warned Schone she was his star. She went on stage in a few minutes and said something in passing to Phil, who claimed he'd be glad to get away from Schone. Mike said he'd see no one signed a contract with Schone because of the publicity he'd get if he screwed anyone else, but Schone sneered at that.

"Schone marched off, Geof went back to his dressing room. Mike went to talk to some new band he wants to sign up, Lana went on stage, directly, Phil went back to his dressing room, and I went to watch the show from the wings."

"Half an hour or so later Schone went out back where he got fatally clobbered. Did everyone park out there?"

"The show people? They didn't park anywhere here. They have a bus. Mike and Schone rent cars. They park out front with the customers. The only ones who park in back are the employees."

"Hmmm! Then what was Schone doing out there?"

"He went specifically to meet someone back there. There's no other reason I can see he would be in back.

"Nick, it wouldn't be anyone in the show. He didn't even associate with them, except as the promoter. It had something to do with money. Nothing else would get him out there."

"Money? Or publicity? What if Mike Silvers could stop the new contracts?"

"You think he did it?"

"I think one of four people did it – or all of them."

Nick looked around at the little assembly. Jane had come in, at his invitation, Ed Goins and Jim Hill had come with him and were with her to the side. On his other side were Ann and Harry Sledge. In front were the four people from the show and their manager. Lana LaLaine was seated in front, sitting like a queen, staring her defiance. The show organist, Joe Benton, was on her left and Phil Talon was close on her right. Behind them were Mike Silvers and Geof Gene.

Nick took a sip of coffee from his cup and sat on the edge of the flat table to stare around at them, then began.

"We're here to sort this out and to arrest one or more of you for the murder of Eric Ricard Schone.

"I'm going to lay this out as I see it, then you're going to tell me who killed him and who else, if anyone, was involved, other than the killer.

"Schone was soon going to replace you, Miss LaLaine. He wanted a younger dancer to appeal to a younger audience (Might as well let her keep her delusions, if she didn't kill him). He mistakenly believed that was the way to go."

"Mistakenly?" she replied. "We agree about that!"

"The money is with the thirty and up people, not the twenty to thirty. Let's not stray from our purpose.

"You had some motive, though you can easily find a better job, once you're free of this contract. I understand you have an offer from the television soap opera people, which is far more lucrative work, and is steadier work.

"You left make-up and fingerprints on a promo photo found near the scene of the crime. That picture was of the new group Schone was putting together. You were all to be out before this coming August, did you know that?"

"Geof and I wanted out!" Mike cried. "Eric refused to release us! It was to our advantage!"

"So I've heard,. Phil could also find more gainful employment. Everyone would be better off, so that wasn't the motive, directly. It couldn't have been.

"Very well. I'll go on, then I'll ask a question or two of one of you. That one will tell me who killed Eric Schone.

"Mike Silvers, you threatened to take an ax to Schone, then someone did."

"I wasn't even here! I was negotiating with a pop-rock band called `Planetary Defense' up in Ft. Myers," Mike Silvers replied. "That's easy to prove."

"Then we have Geof Gene. He also was heard to say that someone ought to kill Schone."

"Whoever did, they did the world a favor."

"Our suspects for the actual killing are down to Lana, Phil and Geof. They would seem to be without motive, but not entirely. I don't have to ask Lana the one question that identifies the killer. The answer was right here all along. It was simply a matter of adding up what was known.

"Jim and Ed, over there, know how I usually handle a case. I make a little chart of boxes. I take a sheet of paper and make a number of squares I can place everyone in at critical moments, which eventually places a killer and the victim together at the time of the murder.

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