Remembering that a picture is worth a thousand words, I offer this excerpt from Book 1 of ‘The Bailey Crane Series’. There are five books in the series:
Book 1: “An Arizona Tragedy – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 1)
Book 2: “Satan’s Song – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 2)
Book 3: “The Brutus Gate – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 3)
Book 4: “Murder In Pueblo Del Mar ‘ A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 4)
Book 5: “A Soul Defiled – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 5)
“An Arizona Tragedy – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 1) is rather close to my heart as it was inspired by the brutal death of a personal friend. The book is fictional but some of the crime data was taken from newspaper accounts of the day… the two principal murders (one in Phoenix, AZ and the other in Washington, DC) actually happened. The story, my words and plot lines are from my imagination, are not intended to cast aspersions on anyone as to guilt, are simply my way of paying homage to a young mother and actress who was taken so horribly from her family and friends.
Here is the excerpt from “An Arizona Tragedy – A Bailey Crane Mystery” (Book 1):
Monday, September 4
Roy Martin’s private office on the twentieth floor of Arizona Bank Building afforded a panoramic northern view of Phoenix, west to east. The great sweep of space beckoned the eye to see forever, awakening the senses.
Remembering the green lush mountains of my native Tennessee and its own special beauty, my mind made its comparative notes: the incredible mountain trails of the Great Smokies, the great gorges and verdant valleys of that hill country with this spacious land of sun and desolate desert. There had been in Tennessee those chronic cloudy days to dampen a mood and marvelous sunny days that brought a multitude of fun activities. Here in the desert, there was a consistent pattern of sunny days and that spatial quality that overwhelmed my senses … made me wonder what psychological messages might be hidden in my obsessive love affair with the desert.
It was time to put the comparative thoughts away, to concentrate on the work at hand.
Spread across Roy’s small conference table were several documents, some bills, a check book, and a cup of coffee. Roy wanted me to familiarize myself with the Cooper estate, pay the bills as they came in, and catch any seeming inconsistencies that might appear. The court had approved my executor role in the estate, and I was a bit nonplussed in the sense that, here I sat, with the ability to manage a deceased man’s assets, to have legal authority to write checks, even, made out to myself. It was all rather new for me, and, in some respects, a bit daunting.
At the moment I was scanning a limited partnership printout, a real estate transaction that involved some land west of Phoenix. My eyes stopped abruptly when they encountered the name of Steve Langford. He was listed on the document as a general partner. There was that annoying, tantalizing thought again. Just a coincidence perhaps, but one that sent a mild shock wave through me. All the thought given to Cathy’s murder and Steve Langford, and there in front of me is his name on the Cooper document. It had to be no big deal. No fateful nonsense. It was just a stupid coincidence.
The discovery had most definitely gotten my attention, and, because I knew nothing about the technical aspects of a real estate limited partnership, I made a note to ask Roy for an explanation. At the moment he was in Lenny’s private office. This could wait.
There were some bills which needed to be paid, so I wrote out the checks, signed them, and put them in the proper envelopes along with the billing. There were some sizable funds also to be deposited to the estate. The deposit slips were prepared. Then, I turned my attention to other papers relative to the estate. There was nothing unusual, nothing that appeared inconsistent to me. In fact, I was impressed with the wise scope of the Cooper portfolio, even envied the magnitude of the estate and the sound management that had been given.
This whole business made me do some wishful thinking. Maybe one day my own estate would be of such size and worth. There were now only a few bucks in savings, a little raw land, and an annuity. My spending was too spontaneous and reckless, too much devoted to living the good life. This Cooper guy knew what he was doing. He was big time wealthy. My financial situation was okay and would get better, but Mr. Cooper did impress me with his business acumen.
Hey, I thought, that’s why they make ‘thirty-one flavors.’ Some people were successful as bankers, financiers, entrepreneurs, and workaholics. Some were like me: didn’t overdo the ‘work thing;’ left some time, lots of time, for fun and frivolity; worked just enough to make those ends meet. People like me did a considerable amount of procrastination, and we did a lot of daydreaming. Perhaps it was a phase people like me went through. One day, there would likely be some second guessing: why, oh, why didn’t I do this or that? Hopefully, not. Some of us have to smell those flowers.
There was always a price paid for what one did … someone very important must have said that. The corporate CEO works sixteen hours a day for twenty years to be on top of the heap, then discovers his kids are grown and he has an all of a sudden urge to do things that would have been better done twenty years ago. Perspective must not uniquely mean a mental view that fits all sizes. Perspective must be relative to a person’s time and place, the DNA, environment … oh, Bailey-boy, my alter ego speaks, please, stop with the philosophical digression, already!
The Cooper estate business had me thinking too much. Knowing myself, twenty years from now, I’ll still be full of my bible belt guilt, second guessing my choices, and still making a goodly share of goofs. Just what flavor is that? Vanilla? Strawberry? Pistachio? It is what it is!
The office door opened and closed. Roy sat next to me at the conference table and asked how I was doing.
“Doing fine. This is all just a little new to me … makes me think too much. Did have a little shock a moment ago when I saw Steve Langford’s name on one of these real estate limited partnership documents. Been doing so much thinking about Cathy and Steve, it was just a strange coincidence.”
“Well, that’s his business,” Roy responded. “He does land deals and other kinds of syndication. He’s really a wheeler dealer, an operator.”
Roy may not have intended it, but his last comment came across as disparaging. So, I asked: “Operator? As in scam, or, just a good honest hustling entrepreneur?”
Roy chuckled. “More, the latter. So far as I know, Steve’s all legal. But any guy who hustles as aggressively as Steve will sometimes be on the fringe of legality. It’s funny but I remember Cooper raising some questions about a particular land deal. He had heard something, just general, not specific, that led him to believe there could be some impropriety. I gave him my honest appraisal, told him these deals were being done in Arizona all the time and most were in step with current statutes. Of course, I told him that things like physical description of land, legal definitions as to numbers of partners and so on had to be within the purview of those statutes. There was some changes made to Cooper’s satisfaction and the deal went through.” Roy retrieved an ashtray from the desk and lit a cigarette.
“Well, I know precious little about these things It just gave me pause to see his name there. My problem, Roy, is that I don’t somehow trust that guy. He seems nice enough when I run into him during the business day, but when he’s had several drinks he changes. Hell, for that matter, I guess we all change when we’re drinking. It’s just that Pam remembers some bad occasions when she and Cathy lived together, and it got me to thinking and analyzing too much.” The coffee had gotten cold, and I declined a refill.
Roy said, “Cathy probably got very unlucky and was at the wrong place at the wrong time. There was probably some drug-crazed hippie-type hanging out around the school. Or, maybe someone from the apartment complex had been keeping an eye on her. Did you see Willis this morning?”
“No, heading there after leaving you.” It occurred to me that no one called Willis by his first name, Herman … on reflection, guess I would prefer Willis to Herman, as well.
“By now,” Roy went on, “Willis ought to have a thick file on Cathy’s murder. Maybe he’s got something solid by now. Seems to me Steve has too much smarts to kill someone, but who the hell knows, with the way things are these days? Hey, I’ve an appointment coming in. You pretty much through with Cooper’s stuff for now?”
“All done. I’m out of here. See you later.”
The way things are these days!
Going down in the elevator, I thought about that phrase. How were things these days? Much different than ten or twenty years ago? Much different than ten or twenty years from now? Did our lives really change all that much? Or, did we just get bigger and more visible? More visible because of technology? We can get from one end of the country to the other end so fast these days. People are moving more frequently, mixing up the ‘salad bowl’ ingredients with anxieties and frustrations. Mass media blasts are assaulting us. ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ was still ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in any time, in any generation. The genes and chromosomes are still there. The mix! Was that the difference? If there was a difference.
Ugly and brutal murders happened in other areas. Richard Speck! Jack, the Ripper! Bluebeard! The mad Chicago doctor who had his own special torture chamber for his grisly meetings with young women!
“Whoa! Stop the thought machine,” yelling at myself as I drove out of the underground garage on my way to see Herman Willis. He was a fellow police officer and a friend for whom I had a great deal of respect. My tendency was to over think things … really! Moi?
END OF EXCERPT… Go to http://www.billyraychitwood.weebly.com and scroll down the ‘Home’ page and preview my books. The buying spots are listed after a short preview of each book. Click on the blog section on the ‘Home’ page if you would like to read my recent posts.
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