The Great Detectives of Old Time Radio The great ones are back in action.

21Sep/130

Sample Saturday: An Ounce of Prevention

Here's an excerpt from An Ounce of Prevention, my new mystery short available for Kindle for 99 cents:

Three days went by and everything had been quiet. Then the fourth day in the afternoon.I was reading over some reports from a security job at Boise Town Square mall. My desk phone rang. I picked it up. “Newton Investigations, this is Jerry.”

Pop. A low pitched male voice came over the phone. “Hello, boss. It’s Ustick.”

I cradled the phone. “Ustick, what is it? You're not due to report until 5:30.”

Pop. “Durand’s car was bombed.”

I swallowed. Some security we were. I sighed. “Was he hurt?”

Pop. “Nah, the bomb was tied to the remote signal for unlocking the door. He was thirty feet away when the thing blew up.”

“Ustick, didn’t I tell you to check the car completely? That meant under the car, around the car, on top of the car, in the car.”

Pop. "Yeah, you did and I did like I do every time, boss. I went over the car twenty minutes before Durand came out. I sent the pictures of my inspection to your cell phone."

I grabbed my cell phone off the table and pulled up the pictures taken of the SUV's undercarriage, interior, and under the hood. No sign of a bomb. Another picture time-stamped fifteen minutes later showed the car in flames, and one minute after that with the fire burned out, and the car gutted.

I whistled.

Pop. Ustick spoke up. "Boss, any other questions?"

"First, I've told you to stop chewing gum on the job. I'm hearing a popping sound on the line."

The line went silent for a moment.

Ustick's voice came through clear. "We just have a bad connection."

I chuckled. "It just cleared up. Are the police there yet?"

"They just pulled up."

"I'll be there in ten minutes." I hung up the desk phone, stuck the cell phone in my pocket, went to the file cabinet, grabbed the three threatening letters, and placed them in a manila envelope.

After a quiet drive, I arrived at the elementary school parking lot. It was almost vacant except for a very busy corner. I reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a package of latex gloves I’d stowed there years before. I put them on and walked to the scene. Police officers, firefighters, and haz-mat crews were all over the place. Some of them were gathering around some debris.

I ambled up to the crime scene tape where a dark haired police officer stood. “Sir, can I help you?”
I pulled out my license and business card. “I’m Jerry Newton, I texted Detective Weston that I was coming.”

She nodded. “Yes, sir. Please sign the log before entering the crime scene?”

I put the pen in my hand like I had a hundred times before and signed the sheet.

The remains of Durand’s Ford Explorer were charred from bottom to top. Cole Ustick was talking with my former partner, Detective Charlie Weston. Cole Ustick was all of twenty-three years old. He was five foot eleven, and his black ponytail stuck out from beneath his fuchsia fedora, which matched his suit.

I ambled over to Weston. The light of the late afternoon sun reflected off his waxed bald head.
Weston closed his notebook. "Okay, Mr. Ustick, I'll let you know if we need anything else. Thank you for your time."

I poked Charlie in the back. "Detective.”

Charlie turned and smiled. "Jerry, good to see you. Come this way." Charlie led me over to a Black Crown Victoria. He stared at Ustick and pivoted back to me. "So they're calling that a detective these days."

I shrugged. "You joined the fashion police, too?"

Charlie chuckled. "No." He frowned. "My biggest problem right now is your client. He just had his car bombed, he's hired a bodyguard on a teacher's salary, and he tells me he's got no idea who’s behind this. Jerry, I think you got more sense than to sell me that line.”

I handed Charlie the envelope. He opened it, flipped through the letters, and frowned. "Mind if I keep these for a while?"

Like my permission mattered. "No problem."

Charlie marched toward the former parking spot and I followed him over to my client, who stood by a fire truck.

Charlie rested his arm against the fire truck. "Mister Durand, why didn't you tell me that you'd received threatening letters?"

The redness of Durand's face deepened a shade and he glared at me. "Newton, what I told you was supposed to be in confidence."

I put up a hand. "It is, but there's a police investigation here, and it’s illegal for me to withhold information."

Durand interwove his fingers and pushed on his knuckles. "I'd rather there not be a police investigation."

Charlie furrowed his brow. "Sir, this is an arson investigation and we have to investigate every possibility.”

Durand squeezed his hands tight. "I understand, Detective. Now if there’s nothing else, Newton, will you take me to get a rental car?"

"Ustick will take you." I pointed towards where I'd last seen Ustick. "He's over that way."

Charlie said, “Mr. Duran, I may have more questions later.”

Durand grunted. “You have my number.” He lumbered past us.

Charlie shook his head. "You got a prize client there.”

“You sound like you suspect him.”

“Wouldn’t you? It’s the easiest way to explain how a bomb got under there after your man checked it. It was already there. Maybe he encased it in part of the car and put it back on.”

I chuckled. “What’s the motive? How many guys torch cars for the insurance money? Plus if it was encased in the car itself, I think you’d have seen a lot more debris. This looks really professional. The bomb did just what it was meant to. Look at it, as pretty as you please, burned to a crisp.”

“Good point, but you expect me to believe this sort of professional job was done by a kid mad because Durand held him back a grade.” Weston shrugged. “Either way, The lab will find out. Of course, Ustick could have missed it.”

I shook my head. “Nah, he’s very thorough. “

He shrugged. “Well, even thorough people make mistakes. But neither explanation satisfies me which leaves me in a spot because it happened. Your client’s not telling everything he knows.”

I leaned in towards Charlie and spoke low. “I know he's probably hiding something he doesn't want you to find. However, that's not my problem.”

Charlie grinned. "Jerry, you know this type of conversation makes me a little nostalgic. You were a good cop. Have you ever thought of-?"

I shook my head. "Nothing’s changed, Charlie."

Read more in An Ounce of  Prevention.

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