Raymond Mackey is a struggling crime writer. His friends call him Mack. But friends are in short supply these days. Mack’s thirty years as a homicide detective came to the kind of abrupt, ignominious end that tends to make friends dry up and blow away. It matters little that Mack was never actually a mole working for a shadowy, seemingly omnipresent mob boss. Somehow, the evidence was there anyway and the scandal ended everything for him overnight. Lucky to stay out of prison, Mack lives in a netherworld of forced retirement, spinning his memories of old homicide cases into pulp fiction and working part time as a shopping mall cop. His wife Marlo, the greatest criminal investigator Mack has ever known, has been dead of pancreatic cancer for nearly five years. That leaves his ancient Smith-Corona Corsair, a pack of Camels, a bottle of Old Forester, and Marlo’s bourbon-loving cat, Phil, as Mack’s only company.
Almost. Because Mack also keeps himself company. The psychiatrists call it Depersonalization-Derealization Disorder. Mack calls it Triple-D. But crazy also works. It means he watches himself, usually from an overhead perspective, as though someone has tied a floating camera to a back beltloop on a long string. It makes him feel watched, and not by someone inclined to judge him kindly. So Raymond Mackey comes complete with his own Greek chorus. “Watch yourself, Mack,” people tell him. He has no choice.
When one of Mack’s old informants goes missing and Mack’s face turns up in a dead man’s camera, his past comes roaring painfully back to life. Now the police want him for questioning, the mob want him dead and it’s increasingly difficult to tell who, exactly, is working for whom. As a mercilessly hot Chicago summer finally breaks and it starts to rain bodies, Mack finds himself past his prime for this kind of action. Retirement has added weight and subtracted agility. He hasn’t fired a weapon in years. His antiquated cell phone will not stop ringing with a mysteriously blocked number. In the end, as Mack watches himself from above, it is razor-sharp instinct, cheap consumer electronics and his dead wife that offer his only hope.
Red Farlow’s disdain for cold cases ran deep. They dredged up some long-ago, heinous murder when reopened, which haunted him at night and hovered like a black cloud all day. For months.
Unsolved crimes also reminded Red of his failures.
A triple murder from 1973 clobbered him with a phone call first thing that morning. He’d investigated a family slain at home. Neither the police nor Red found the killer.
Years later, surviving son Randolph Goings wanted to visit Red in Savannah.
The private investigator agreed to the meeting and set a time for the next afternoon.
Red felt the day’s heat after he got up the morning of his meeting with Goings, and the cold case burned inside his head.
The day broke as warm as the previous evening, and by seven that morning, the thermometer outside his office window read eighty-five degrees. But he couldn’t complain, as the sky was mostly clear, save for nimbostratus clouds gathering to the east. No doubt, they dumped rain miles offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.
He checked his phone weather app’s radar, and, sure enough, the rain clouds headed his way.
Red pictured Randy Goings at age eighteen in the early seventies. As a young GBI agent, Red investigated—with his boss, Matthew Bailey—the murders of three family members in Valdosta, Georgia. Randy was the son who discovered the bodies of his parents and young sister.
That was decades past. Red figured Randy would be in his sixties.
Red stepped out his front door. It was a good time to walk the sidewalks and squares of the old southern city. He had other things to attend to. Red picked up the morning newspaper and fondled its rubber band. Birds sang. Cars chugged around Chippewa Square behind the slow trot of a mule-drawn carriage filled with sightseers. The trollies rattled past, always running behind schedule, and carried countless other visitors for their jump-off, jump-on adventures in the old city.
Soon, the day would boil up to around ninety-five. But right then, a tolerable one in the morning’s Atlantic breeze.
He stepped back into his house and opened up the paper as he walked into the kitchen for coffee.
After his brief phone conversation with Randy Goings, Red had doodled his memories of the triple murder. No suspects were arrested. No one held accountable. His hand and pen moved across a clean notebook sheet. A circle started out with a dot and moved into a spiral. He retraced the curved lines, keeping the drawing smooth in places and jagged in others. Blotches from the pen formed, and he moved his nib around in the tiny puddles, spreading the ink to fill in any gaps.
Soon he’d filled the page with near blackness.
A haunting image.
In the morning, Red went about his daily routine, following up on current cases. At one point before noon, he lapsed back into the old case with a productive intent. He thought about and wrote what he remembered about the family in Valdosta.
Picking up his notebook and pocketing the fountain pen, Red walked down the street for a ham and cheese baguette for lunch and returned to eat at his desk. Thirty minutes later, the doorbell dinged.
Red walked downstairs and, on the way to answer the bell, admired a vase of fresh daisies that sat on a wood pedestal of unknown but stout vintage. His wife Leigh insisted on an array of blossoms in her psychotherapy practice’s waiting area.
He opened the door and greeted a tall, gray-haired man in blue slacks and a white shirt. A beautiful woman dressed in a pale peach suit stood beside him. The man carried what appeared to be a large aging briefcase, whose sides bulged against a brass latch.
“Mr. Farlow, I’m Randy Goings,” the man said.
“Good morning. Come on in the house,” Red said and nodded to the lady. “Ma’am.” He took note of Randy’s polite formality. “Please, Randy, call me Red.”
“Red, this is my wife, Linda Barrett-Goings,” Randy said.
“It is my pleasure, Linda. Won’t you both please step up to my office?”
They followed as Red led the way up the eighteen-eighties staircase to a spacious room overlooking the square.
“My goodness, the private investigations business must pay pretty well,” Randy said. Red noted the formality seemed to have eased a bit.
“This is my wife’s family home,” Red told them. “She generously allotted space to me after we married a few years back. She’s a psychotherapist. Her office is on the first floor, as you may have noticed from that brass plaque by the front steps.”
“I find that very interesting, Red,” Linda said. “I’m a psychology professor at Emory in Atlanta.”
He took in Linda’s bright smile.
“Well, welcome to Savannah,” he said. “What can I get you in the way of refreshment? I have iced tea, coffee, a variety of fizzy and still waters, and the best espresso this side of Ditta Artigianale in Florence, Italy.”
Randy and Linda laughed. She asked for a seltzer and Randy coffee.
The Goings went into Red’s office and sat together on his sofa. In a few minutes, Red came in with a tray of the drinks. He returned to the kitchen and prepared two doppios of espresso for himself.
They broke the chill of the impending conversation with talk about Savannah. Red already knew the thin, icy path, of course. It came with bad memories frozen over by decades of mourning. The kind you know that in the crying, you can’t bring your loved ones back. But still, those left behind shed tears. For years.
“Red, I remember the first time we chatted, right after that horrible night,” Randy said. “In the whole experience, you were the kindest, most sensitive cop who interviewed me. And believe me, I got a lot of tough questions from some hardnosed police detectives and sheriff’s deputies. They, of course, went on the absolute notion that I killed my family. You and Agent Bailey disabused them of the idea. I thank you for it.”
Red nodded as he looked at the couple. He saw well-educated, successful people. People who likely spent their entire careers in a city.
“We’re here to speak with you about my tragedy so many years ago,” Randy said. Linda took a tissue from her purse. “My family’s killer was never found, as you know. We want the case reopened and examined from information I have in my father’s files. Too, we think modern crime-solving technology might help to track down the person or people who did this.”
Red sipped his espresso. “First, Randy, tell me something of what you found in your father’s files,” he said. “Then, we can discuss the techno stuff.” Randy brought up his worn briefcase, similar to ones Red had seen many times in courtrooms and not unlike his battered leather satchel.
“My father left a substantial number of files,” Randy said. He withdrew a folder without opening it. “They include his own manuscripts and articles for professional journals. And his personal notes about patients he saw at Central State Hospital. For many years, I ignored the many boxes. Right after the funeral, the college called and asked that I clear out my father’s office. Luckily, he’d only been there a few months, and most of his hospital files remained in our house.”
Randy’s tone became more solemn as he spoke.
“When did you start plowing through these?” Red asked.
“That’s a long story,” Randy replied. “First, let me tell you I am nearing retirement from the Bernstein, Robb, Goings, and Whaley law firm in Atlanta. I’ll remain available for client matters for many years as life allows.”
Red nodded. He listened.
“For a long time after the murders, I ignored the files,” Randy went on. “But I started going through them, one box at a time, about ten years ago.”
He paused and looked down at the brown-speckled folder in his lap and, with his right index finger, tapped hard on the file two or three times. He appeared close to tears.
“I found the patient notes to be interesting,” Randy said and paused. Collecting himself, he went on. “I could not resist delving into them despite Linda’s precautionary advice that I should not. I did this not out of some voyeuristic thrill of reading about other people’s secret lives. Rather, I wanted to find threads that might lead to my family’s murderer or murderers.”
Red arose and fetched more coffee for Randy. Linda had barely touched her water. He soon returned with a carafe.
“Did you think going in that a patient might have killed them?” Red asked as he poured the black liquid into his client’s cup.
“I saw that as a possibility, yes,” Randy said. “Most of his patients were incarcerated for their mental illness after committing a crime. Not all, certainly, but many were killers, whether by rage or perhaps because of their mental condition.”
He picked up his coffee and sipped. “I thought one of his patients might have threatened him or revealed why someone killed my family. And who committed the crime. Admittedly, I batted around in the dark. Understand, I’m a trust and estates attorney, not a criminal lawyer, and unsure of what I sought.”
Randy shook his head in frustration.
“What have you found thus far?” Red asked.
“Just this. A man whom my father counseled claimed authorities wrongly incarcerated him for a murder in south Georgia,” Randy said. “Now, I know most prisoners say they didn’t do the deed that got them where they landed. However, this man offered details in his statements of who killed a young woman back in the fifties.”
Red’s mental bells went off. “Tell me more, Randy.”
The attorney related the story pieced together from his father’s notes. Over several years, a patient talked endlessly about why he was sent to Milledgeville and how it was a mistake. The man had mental issues as a child. According to Walter Goings’s notations, people regarded him as a “retard” and slow learner. The man had a below-average IQ, but he was able to perform certain tasks at school.
“Do you know who the patient was?” “That’s the thing. My father didn’t include any real names in his notes,” Randy said. “He had his own system of keeping the files ordered by nicknames he applied to each patient. For anonymity, given the sensitivity of the information. The man in question was called ‘Bible Salesman,’ who sold the Good Book in a place named Cracker Town.”
Two hours into their meeting, thunder clapped over the house. In a few minutes, a cascade of rain thumped against the window panes and pelted the sidewalk and street below.
Nobody commented about the sudden downpour.
“Any clue as to where this patient was from?” Red asked. “Cracker Town stirs some familiarity. Have to think about it.”
“No,” Randy answered. “What I am hoping to find is a legend matching the client’s nicknames with full names. From that, we should be able to track down other information about them through state archives.”
Red considered Randy’s line of reasoning. He regarded state records as a major source of intel. By law, medical records were private. Thus, accessing the files, even if found, might prove difficult. Also, the state destroyed records every ten years.
“You have a plan. But as you said, the key is finding out that name and the patient’s hometown,” Red said. “As to the technology side of solving cold cases, DNA has reopened a lot of criminal profiles. Past crimes have been solved, and many wrongly incarcerated people have been set free. DNA also has tracked down people who escaped initial judgment for their criminal activity. First off, have you asked the state to reopen the case?”
Randy shook his head. “Yes, but no such luck, Red. A defense attorney in my firm approached the state on my behalf. They told him nothing doing without clearcut evidence about the patient’s alleged crime. His contact also cited the number of years that have passed.”
Wind gusts tossed trees on the square below and thumped against the windows.
Red asked how much they knew about DNA in criminal cases.
“That’s what Linda and I have been discussing,” Randy said. He turned to his wife.
“Red, we’ve known someone at the state crime lab for years. She filled us in on the reality of DNA criminal identification,” she said. “We know that obtaining the samples might be a challenge, particularly from people who’ve been dead for many years.”
Red nodded and suggested the place to start was arranging for Randy to submit a DNA sample for analysis.
“After that, we need to try to locate any DNA records of, say, the mother of the young woman who was killed,” Red said. “Roadblocks and decades aside, we can give it a shot. All of what you say strikes familiar chords. I remember something about a young woman killed in the mid-fifties from my investigation into your family’s deaths. She lived and died in Cracker Town, a Damville, Georgia neighborhood. I’d have to consult my files to determine if her case is relevant.”
Randy’s voice wavered. “Add to that, Red, my other little brother or sister to be. Killed in my mother’s womb.” Tears rolled down his cheeks. He retrieved a white handkerchief from his pants pocket and wiped his face.
“I’m so sorry, Randy,” Red said. “You suffered so much at a young age.”
Suddenly, the downpour subsided and settled into a steady rainfall. Randy shook his head. “I never imagined this would be so difficult. All of the horror of those days, weeks, months, and even years come tumbling back.”
After a pause in the conversation, Randy asked where the bathroom was. Red directed him down the side hall to the back of the second floor.
Red and Linda sat in silence for a few moments.
Red spoke first. “He’s a very lucky man to have you, Linda,” the private detective said.
Linda smiled. “Red, you just can’t imagine, but I am the lucky one.”
Randy returned and sat down. From his briefcase, he withdrew another manila folder, its fresh color contrasting with the older file. “To get started, I’ve copied some records and notes for you to review. On top is the patient ‘Bible Salesman.’ Several others are underneath his.”
“What drew you to Bible Salesman’s file?”
As the rain continued, a glimmer of sunlight streaked through the window.
“As I read the person’s profile, I presumed him to be a male first of all. My father only counseled men in the prison area, or so he told me,” he said. “The notes tell a story that convinced me this man might be innocent of killing the young woman, wherever that occurred. Certainly, I’d like your impressions after reading all of these, but Bible Salesman grabbed my interest immediately.”
Randy expressed his doubts that any of the others in his father’s file could have done him wrong. Several had died.
“If they passed away and my father marked their files as such, I didn’t include them for you to review,” he said. “In fact, I didn’t review any of those.”
Randy handed the folder to Red, who suggested he have a week or so before their next meeting. He asked Randy to arrange to provide a DNA sample.
They also discussed Red’s fees and expenses, which Randy agreed to without any questions. He wrote a two-thousand-dollar check to get started. Red gave him a contract to review and sign before they met again, along with a receipt for the initial payment.
“Don’t know your schedule, but I have to be in Atlanta in ten days. Tuesday, the twelfth of September,” Red said. “Might we meet Thursday or Friday?”
Randy checked his phone calendar. “Yes, why don’t we meet at my Midtown office on Thursday?” He handed Red a card with the address. “You know the building?”
“Indeed, I do,” Red said.
“I’ll see you there at two then,” Randy said.
Thunder rumbled. Rain started again in earnest.
They rose from their seats, and Red escorted the husband and wife downstairs. Red handed them his big golf umbrella for the wet walk to their car.
Savannah’s beautiful summer day had turned into the more typical weather of the season. He’d have to check on the tropical storm developing several hundred miles east of Puerto Rico. A hurricane potentially in the making.
Red settled into his seat after dinner out with his wife, Leigh. They tried a new seafood restaurant in a shopping mall. They swore never to return.
Besides eating bad food, they got drenched in the storm.
Now freshly showered and in dry, comfortable clothing, Red looked out the window at the rain falling on the square.
He opened the file folder with pages from Walter Goings’s counseling days at Central State Hospital and thumbed through the sheets, all brittle and some torn. Red looked for links to south Georgia and anything indicating tension between patient and therapist. He found very little about anyone who might want to harm Doctor Goings.
The fourth file he picked up was code-named Bible Salesman.
The man spoke a great deal about the agony of growing up in a small, unnamed town somewhere in Georgia. The man described the ups and downs of his education. He told of one teacher who tutored him after school for several years. When she left his life, he gave up on his education and dropped out of school when he was fifteen.
The notes also described the man’s years in the hospital. There Bible Salesman learned about lunacy boards, which presided over countless criminal suspects and ruled they’d be better off in the state mental hospital than a prison. A judge convened a lunacy board and sent Bible Salesman to Milledgeville for treatment after his arrest on suspicion of a young woman’s death.
The patient didn’t know why the lunacy board in his county sent him there. He just didn’t understand how things like that worked. Walter Goings tried to explain it all to Bible.
Red scanned the other files. According to Doctor Goings’s notes, one patient had been abused by his mother when he was eight years old. He later killed his older sister.
Another account described a child’s mutilation by cigarette burns. The man murdered his mother and grandfather for their mistreatment.
There were serial rapists. A congregant allegedly assaulted his pastor’s wife after she refused to drink battery acid in a North Georgia church service. The notes in this file told a story of sexual abuse, but it was unclear who actually forced themselves upon whom. Did Doctor Goings’s patient assault the woman or had the pastor’s wife herself abused the man as a teenager? Murky waters.
A lot of accounts raised many questions; few answers came forth.
It was almost midnight when Red decided to pack it in and start again the next morning.
As he straightened the files, a torn piece of newsprint fell out of the stack. On it was written a brief note in a shaky hand. “Sorry I mist you Doctor Going. See you soon. Cleet.”
The bells tolled in a far-off place inside Red’s brain.
Ah yes, Cleet Wrightman.
About the Author
W.F. Ranew writes the Red Farlow Mysteries series from Tirgearr Publishing,
the latest of which is book five, Cracker Town.
Ranew is a former newspaper reporter, editor, and communication executive.
He started his journalism career covering sports, police, and city council
meetings at his hometown newspaper, The Quitman Free Press. He also worked
as a reporter and editor for several regional dailies: The Augusta (Ga.)
Chronicle, The Florida Times-Union, and The Atlanta
He lives with his wife in Atlanta and St. Simons Island, Ga.
Forensic accountant Kat Munro puts her traumatic past behind her and begins dating journalist Connor O’Malley, whose investigations into online crime attract the wrong kind of attention. When a colleague’s teenage son goes missing, and his friend’s body is discovered, Kat finds herself working with DS Adam Jackson again.
The murder enquiry leads Adam to an exclusive London school where allegations of drugs, gaming fraud and child pornography abound. As he gets deeper into the investigation, Adam is forced to face issues in his private life while suppressing his feelings for Kat.
The faceless hackers become desperate, and Connor is found drugged with his research missing. Can Kat and Adam put the past behind them to solve a series of seemingly unrelated incidents before someone else becomes the victim of an elusive cyber-crime network?
Other Books in the Kat Munro Thriller series:
A Kat Munro Thriller, Book 1
Financial Crime Thriller
Published: December 2020
Publisher: Paperback Writer’s Publishing
Can a conspiracy be uncovered before the Death Count rises?
Forensic accountant Kat Munro fights corporate fraud during the day and kickboxes her demons at night while trying to ignore the nightmares that have plagued her since a car accident changed her life forever.
DS Adam Jackson is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of a friend two years ago.
When the partner of a successful London Investment fund dies in suspicious circumstances, Kat joins forces with Adam to investigate the firm. As they gather evidence of a crime with implications beyond the City, they find that events in their pasts are on a collision course; one which will ultimately put them both in serious danger.
Fast-paced and entertaining, Death Count takes a deadly dip into the world of financial crime.
Marshall Tyler stamped his feet to keep warm and tossed his blond curls out of his eyes. It was supposed to be spring in London, but there wasn’t much evidence of that yet. He couldn’t wait for summer when school would finally be done. He would decamp to his parents’ holiday home on the French Riviera for the holidays, where he’d spend each day working out at the gym, working on his tan, and chasing any number of beautiful girls who flocked to the region.
He took another look at his watch, a gift from his mother, an expensive Girard-Perregaux timepiece similar to the one footballer Cristiano Ronaldo favoured. They were late. He’d give them another five minutes, and then he’d return to school and apologise to his mate Harry. Maybe he shouldn’t have gone behind his back to arrange this meeting, but Marshall loved the thrill of what they’d done. Harry wanted to take it slow, but Marshall had seen the opportunity when it presented itself. Despite Harry’s objections, he’d gone ahead and submitted the proposal anyway. Perhaps he was going to be a shrewd businessman like his father after all.
There was a rustle in the weeds near the abandoned building where he’d been instructed to wait. He spun around and caught a glimpse of the mangy red tail of an urban fox disappearing into the undergrowth. The single-level brick structure and surrounding security fence were marked with ‘Keep Out’ signs, overlaid with meaningless graffiti. Plastic bags, food containers and all manner of rubbish had blown into a pile against the wire fence at one end of the site. The lights on the estate lining the streets leading to the old substation had flickered on during the time he’d been waiting, and dusk now blanketed the city.
He looked around at the growing shadows, and a shiver ran down his spine. He couldn’t wait to leave this dodgy part of London behind him. He couldn’t believe, out of all the places where he could have completed his schooling, that his parents had sent him to a boarding school in the East End. It had been his father’s way of providing some counterbalance to the opulent lifestyle Marshall had been born into.
They weren’t coming. Marshall felt the emptiness of disappointment twist his stomach. He took one more look about him, turned his collar up and ducked back through a hole in the broken fence. When he straightened, two men were standing in front of him.
He jumped and took a step back, crashing into the fence. One of the men laughed, a harsh chesty sound. Marshall couldn’t make out much of their features in the gloom, except that they were both broad-shouldered, with knitted beanies pulled down over their ears.
“Tyler?” the first one asked.
“You’re just a kid.” The second man sounded surprised.
Marshall nodded and swallowed, feeling a sudden dryness in his throat.
“Let’s talk around the back, where we won’t be overheard,” the first man said.
Marshall hesitated, unsure whether he wanted to be out of sight of the flats. Still, it didn’t seem to be a suggestion, so he ducked back through the hole in the fence and waited while the two men followed. He took a deep breath and reminded himself that he was the one in charge; he had the thing they wanted. Squaring his shoulders, he led them around the edge of the substation into an overgrown yard that led down to the railway siding.
“Do you have it?”
The two men stood blocking his exit.
“Has the money been transferred?” Marshall asked. He heard the slight tremor in his voice and hoped that the men didn’t.
Marshall took out his phone and tapped on the app for the bank account. The balance was unchanged from when he’d looked earlier. “It’s not there,” he said. “I can’t give it to you until I’ve been paid.”
The second man stepped forward and knocked the phone from Marshall’s hand. The screen shattered as it landed at his feet.
“You didn’t really think we’d pay your blackmail, did you?” the first man sneered. “Now give it here.”
Marshall felt a frisson of fear. He opened his mouth to call for help, but the men laughed.
“No one will hear you, and if they do, no one will come to your aid, not around these parts.”
Marshall took a step backwards, but the first man grabbed him while the second man landed a solid punch to his abdomen, followed by one to his jaw. Marshall’s head dropped to one side, and he struggled to draw in a breath.
“Stop, I don’t have it on me,” he rasped. “But I can get it for you.”
The man hit him once more, and Marshall felt pain radiate from the centre of his face. Blood gushed from his nose, spilling down the front of his jacket.
“We’ll wait here, and you go and get it,” the first man said, releasing him and pushing him towards the building. “You have thirty minutes.”
“And we’ll keep that fancy watch as collateral to make sure you come back.” The second man reached for his arm, releasing the clasp on the strap and slipping the watch from Marshall’s wrist. He held it up to his face for a closer look. “Very nice.”
“No,” Marshall said, making a grab for the watch. The man pulled away as Marshall’s fingers grazed the back of his hand. “That was a present from my mother.”
“You know what you need to do if you want it and your phone back.”
About the Author
SL Beaumont is the author of the award-winning novel Shadow of Doubt, the Kat Munro Thriller series and the Amazon best-selling series, The Carlswick Mysteries.
She lives in beautiful New Zealand, which is only problematic when the travel-bug bites (which it does fairly often)! Her passion for travel has seen her take many long haul flights to various parts of the world. Her love of history helps determine the destination and the places she visits are a constant source of inspiration for her.
Prior to becoming an author, SL Beaumont worked in banking in London and New York.
Shadow of Doubt won the 2020 Indie Reader Mystery/Suspense/Thriller Award and was long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Novel. Death Count was a semi-finalist for both the 2021 Publisher’s Weekly BookLife Fiction Prize.
A broken and forgotten man fighting the demons of dementia, he longs for the past when both he and his beloved military town of Ginger Ridge once thrived.
When his stooped body collides with the hardened realities of the present, Solomon lies in a coma as an unidentifiable victim of a hit-and-run accident in a faraway city.
With nothing to keep him going but flashbacks of relationships from his past, Solomon has no idea what a difference he will make on the future …
About the Author
Janet may not have realized she was a writer at the time, but her earliest childhood memories were spent creating fairy-tale stories of the father she never knew. That desire to connect with the mysterious man in a treasured photograph gave her a deep love for the endless possibilities of a healing and everlasting story.
A wife of one, mother of three, and Tootsie to four, she currently write from her quiet two-acre corner of the world near Louisville, KY.
Computer genius Tom Wyrick has invented mind-bending technology that will
make theme park rides challenge passengers’ senses, their grasp of the
material world. His Perception Deception Effect will rocket Arizona’s
Nostalgia City theme park decades ahead of the competition. But the secret
technology is missing. And so is its creator. Is he dead? On the run?
An FBI agent theorizes the People’s Republic of China is responsible
for the disappearance. The Nostalgia City CEO, however, is convinced a rival
theme park is behind the theft. He drafts ex-cop turned theme park cab
driver Lyle Deming to fly to Florida to find the missing computer scientist
and recover his secrets.
Does this have anything to do with the severed human finger Lyle finds in
Back at Nostalgia City, a sprawling re-creation of an entire small town
from the 1970s, a movie company is shooting a Vietnam era crime story.
It’s a welcome distraction from the tech theft until the film company
announces its last-minute replacement star is Cory “Psycho”
Sievers, fresh out of rehab and aching to exact revenge on Hollywood. When
another actor is found dead, park executive Kate Sorensen, a 6’ 2
½” former college basketball star, is persuaded to
Shrugging off jet lag and chronic anxiety, Lyle goes undercover using a
parade of false identities—from attorney to maintenance
worker—to snoop behind the scenes at other theme parks. Although
he’s generally tech savvy, he’s flummoxed by Perception
Deception science. He gets help from a Nostalgia City engineer who speaks
the jargon, but Lyle must rein in his assistant’s enthusiasm for
In the meantime, Kate confronts the mentally unstable actor. But she may be
forced to give up the murder case—Lyle’s in trouble. Kate
and Lyle have little time to explore their relationship as both their
investigations turn deadly, threatening them and the future of Nostalgia
Lyle felt like he was back in an interrogation room at the Phoenix PD only he was on the wrong side of the table. He sat in front of Galvan’s desk and eyed the beefy guy with a crew cut who was not introduced. You sat next to Lyle
“So as you now know, I work at—or maybe I used to work—at Nostalgia City. In any event, I’m a cab driver.”
“I can show you my ID and commercial license.”
“This is not the time for your name, rank, and serial number,” Yoo said. “Tell us what you were doing here.”
Yoo still prodded, Galvan had large dark eyes, and the crew cut looked at him like he was a suspect in a one-man lineup. “Okay, I’m just looking for a Nostalgia City employee. What’s the harm?”
“And you thought he might be working here?” Galvan said.
“And what does he do at Nostalgia City?”
“I’m not sure.”
“I believe Tom Wyrick is a programmer for you,” Galvan said, her voice light and conversational as if she were asking if he enjoyed his flight to Florida.
Hell, how do they know he was a programmer? Amber, the receptionist. My mistake. She was the only one I told who Wyrick was. But how did they know I talked to her? I never mentioned her name to anyone. Surveillance cameras. They went back and looked at video of the time before I showed up in HR. Damn these guys are good. Least I know what they know about me, which is pretty much everything.
“Wyrick is a programmer and he disappeared. The park is worried about him so they asked me to look around.”
“And you were chosen, not because you drive a cab, but because of your previous occupation.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I was a sergeant. Phoenix police, homicide.” Did the crew cut’s gargoyle expression soften slightly?
“Actually, Mr. Deming,” Galvan said, “the only thing we don’t know for sure is what Wyrick was working on when he disappeared. But I can guess. There’ve been stories. And you were asking around in our attractions development building next door.”
This lady has a complete picture of my actions and motives. As complete as I would have liked for any perp I detained as a cop. He gave a shrug of surrender and leaned back in his chair.
Galvan turned to the thickset guy next to her. “Thanks for coming over Bill. It’s like we thought. I just have a few more questions for our cab driver. I’ll give you a call later.”
Bill got up slowly, pushed his chair out of the way, and came around the desk. He looked at Yoo and made a slight motion to the door. When they left, Galvan got up and took Yoo’s seat opposite Lyle.
“Are you working for Maxwell? Hiring an ex-police detective sounds like something he’d do.”
Lyle couldn’t read Galvan’s body language. She sat back in the chair, put a hand on the arm, and crossed her legs. Relaxed maybe, but her brown-eyed stare held his attention.
“Yes and no. I am working for Max, but he didn’t hire me. I went to work at the park because it was a break from police work. It takes it out of you. I like driving my taxi.”
“You’re not driving it now.”
“I sometimes do special assignments for Max.”
“So one of your programmers has gone rogue and you want to find him before he sells your secrets.”
Lyle could play the game, too. His noncommittal expression was as good as anyone’s.
“Does it have to do with your perception deception effect?”
Why don’t I just call Joseph Arena and have him explain the technical details to you?
“You don’t have to worry. That term was in one of the trade mags recently. No one knows what it means.” She shifted in her chair and leaned forward. “I sympathize with you. We all want the latest and the best, and we all try to protect our own proprietary ideas.”
“Which is why Yoo followed me.”
“That’s right,” she said. “I’m sorry if he got too rough. He’s young. It didn’t sound like you were looking to steal anything. I despise anyone who would steal secrets for profit. Your secrets, our secrets, anyone’s. Our engineering team is inspired, and like Edison said, it’s ninety-nine percent perspiration. Is this Wyrick going to sell your secrets to the highest bidder or what?”
“Well, I would not buy stolen technology. I can’t say for certain that Mr. Danneman wouldn’t be interested, but if anyone wanted to sell us new tech, it would have to come through me. And it hasn’t.”
Lyle was beginning to like Tracy Galvan. Intelligent, attractive. These Atlantic Adventures folks were sharp, straightforward people. Except Amber.
“I know that Maxwell and Mr. Danneman have butted heads—maybe that’s putting it mildly,” she said. “‘No love lost’ is the expression. Is that why you’re here instead of Sea World or the Magic Kingdom?”
Lyle nodded. She knew it all. “I don’t think there’s anything else I could tell you that you don’t already know, except how perception deception works. And I don’t have a clue. I really do drive a cab.”
“I appreciate your frankness,” Lyle said. She was telling the truth. “I could have saved a lot of time by just talking to you first.”
“So where are you going to look next?”
“Does this mean…”
“No, we’re not going to press charges. This is just our little secret. I enjoyed seeing what you did, even at our expense. Very inventive. Should keep security on their toes.”
“Glad I could provide some entertainment.”
About the Author
Mark S. Bacon began his career as a Southern California newspaper police
reporter, one of his crime stories becoming key evidence in a murder case
that spanned decades.
He is the author of the Nostalgia City mystery series that began with Death
in Nostalgia City. The first book introduced ex-cop turned cab driver
Lyle Deming and PR executive Kate Sorensen, a 6’2½”
former college basketball star. Death in Nostalgia City was
recommended for book clubs by the American Library Association. His second
mystery, Desert Kill Switch, earned the top fiction award in the 2018 Great
Southwest Book Festival and was a Top Shelf Magazine Indie Award
After working for two newspapers, Bacon moved to advertising and
marketing. He wrote nonfiction business books including Do-It-Yourself
Direct Marketing, printed in four languages and three editions and named
best business book of the year by the Library Journal. His articles
have appeared in the Washington Post, Cleveland Plain Dealer, San Antonio
Express News, Orange County (Calif.) Register, Denver Post, and many other
publications. Most recently he was a correspondent for the San
He earned an MA in mass media from UNLV and a BA in journalism from Fresno
State. He gets many of his ideas when he’s walking his