Flying Lessons

(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

No, I can't, not all by myself, not without you .

Or so it seems down here on the ground
Surrounded by the others still earthbound.
There’s safety in numbers, or so they say.
But there's little to feed the longing for blue sky,
Wide open with adventure, could I find a way.

What if I had the courage to take that first step,
Jump off into space, head out on my own,
Risk trying my wings and flying alone?
What new heights might I reach, were I
Not afraid of the height of the wide open sky?

What if I were to chance it and go without you?
Would I discover I have the strength to do 
Anything I choose, if I just look inside  
Instead of turning to you for permission to fly?
Can I take the leap, even though terrified?

Yes, I can, because now it's time. It's what I must do.

Besides, you've taught me well.


Written for One Shot Wednesday, which is a year old. Happy Birthday, One Stop Poetry!.


Summer Solstice

My friend Jinksy across The Pond invited me to come over to play.  The game today is called "Two in Tandem." and it goes like this.

Jinksy posted this colorful graphic on her blog to inspire and invited her friends to link what their muse brought forth to accompany the picture.  My muse took one look at the glorious colors and one image came immediately to mind.

What a great way to start the day.  Thanks, Jinksy!

Addendum:   After I posted this, I heard this voice calling from somewhere in cyberspace, "Patticakes, Patticakes..."and I knew that somehow I'd written exactly 55 words. Amazing. So here you go, G-Man. But how'd you do that???

Summer Solstice

Tinkling music, twinkling lights
Sound of children laughing
Greet me with the morning sun

Prancing stallions, leaping frogs
Run round and round me, calling gaily
“Hey, wake up! Come join the fun!”

Summer colors bloom all about me
Everything bright and gay.  I open my eyes;
Then I know. It’s a calliope kind of day!



Two Over Easy and a Questionable Chardonnay, Part 4

This is a continuation of Two Over Easy and a Questionable Chardonnay, Part 3.

Part 4
The Wine Bar is on Sunset in West Hollywood.  There’s nothing much to see from the outside.  There are no windows and a very discreet sign.  I park the car and Harry and I go in through the rather elegant door.  The place is dark as pitch, except for the center of the room. 
“Whoa,” Harry says in a low voice as he takes in the nearly naked woman writhing around a pole on the lit platform in the center of a large oval bar.  “This place is a strip joint.”
“Strip club maybe,” I reply, “but I wouldn’t use the word ‘joint’.  The place is pretty elegant.”
As my eyes adjust, I make out a scattering of men seated around the bar.  The tables are all empty. 
We head over to the bar, and I tell the bartender, a bouncer-type guy, that we’d like to talk to the manager.  Never taking his eyes off us, he picks up a phone, punches a button and speaks softly into the receiver.
“Take a table.  The manager’ll be right out,” he tells us.
Harry and I move to a table against the wall and away from the other patrons.  We are both mesmerized by the, um, ‘dancer’ and her pole. Who knew a woman’s body could bend like that?
Our entertainment is interrupted by a sultry voice.
“Afternoon, gentlemen.” 
Standing over us is a woman, her silhouette against the bright lights of the stage giving a hint of a fantastic figure. 
“You wanted to see me?  I’m Zin, the manager here.”
I jump to my feet, and realize that this babe is towering over me. 
“Uh, yeah.  Could we talk to you for a few minutes?”
“Sure,” she says.  I pull out a chair and she sits down.  I return to my seat across from her. 
Now that she’s no longer backlit, I can see that not only is the woman a virtual Amazon, she is absolutely gorgeous.  Dark auburn hair frames an exotically beautiful face.  It’s easy to see she is what Harry likes to call “mixed spirits.”  She looks like the perfect blend of Asian and Mediterranean, with perhaps a touch of something else thrown in. And that hint of a great body?  Oh, yeah.
“So, fellas, who are you, and what can I do for you,” she asks.
I get myself together and reply, “I’m Marty Tremaine and this is my partner Harry Carrold.” 
I glance at Harry and see he hasn’t quite gotten himself together yet.  I give him a kick under the table and he comes to life.
‘Yeah, hi.  Did you say your name was Zin?”  She smiles and nods. “Interesting name,” he says.
“It’s short for Zinfandel.  This is ‘The Wine Bar’, you know?”
Ohhh, I get it. Clever. I explain why we are here.
“I’m hoping you can fill in some blanks.  We have a picture.  Perhaps you will recognize her.”
Harry digs into his jacket pocket and pulls out a copy of the photo of him and Miranda.  He unfolds it and slides it in front of Zin.
“That’s Chardonnay,” Zin gasps. “She hasn’t been working for the past several weeks.  She called about three weeks ago, and said she had to take some time off.  Something about her husband not finding out.  Tell you the truth, I didn’t know she was married.
“Wait a minute, is she one you said was dead?”
“Yeah. Sorry to be the one to tell you.”
We spend about ten minutes talking to Zinfandel, and learn that Miranda – Chardonnay – has been working afternoons at The Wine Bar for almost a year, until she called three weeks ago.  That’s just about the time she called us too.  Oh, and she’s never been there with a sister, according to Zin.
As we leave, Harry says, “I’m thinking we should stop over at Pacific and give Sullivan what we’ve got.”
I agree, and head down La Cienega, cut over on Venice to Culver, and we’re there in twenty minutes.  I hang a u-turn and park out front.
Harry and I head in, stop at the desk to ask for Mike, then take a seat.  It isn’t long before he comes out, and leads us back to a desk in the bullpen.
“What’s up, guys?
Harry shows him the picture. 
“You and the deceased.”  Mike looks up at Harry.  “I wasn’t aware that you knew the lady quite this well.  When was this taken?”
“That was our first and only meeting.  We had breakfast while she gave me background info on Wilson before I set up the tail. Miranda was a hot dish, but that look of appreciation you see on my face is all for the dish on the table in front of me.  Great eggs.”
“And you got this picture how?”
Harry goes on to explain about Wilson and the cross-surveillance that was going on.
Sullivan shakes his head.  “If there wasn’t a woman dead here, this would be pretty funny.  It’s like some Doris Day-Cary Grant movie.”
“Yeah, and about that woman,” I add, “she wasn’t quite the lady we thought she was.”
I fill Mike in on my conversation with the housekeeper, mentioning the stuff I picked up from her.  He puts out his hand.  I dig into my briefcase for the papers and hand them over.  While he looks at them, I describe our visit to The Wine Bar.  He isn’t happy.
“Damn it. I was out in Van Nuys to meet with Wilson at his house this morning.  Never saw a housekeeper.  He gave me her address book, so I’m guessing these names will be in it.  But the calendar?  What I got was the kitchen calendar, a lovely thing with polar bears on it.  Damn it to Hell!
“OK.  I know you guys are detectives and all that, but it’s time for you to drop this.  I’ll keep these,” he waves the papers and photo we’ve given him, “and you back the hell out of it.  You got me? Otherwise, you may find yourselves with an obstructing charge.”


About a week later, Harry, Steve and I are in Harry’s office enjoying a Friday afternoon beer.  The office closed at five and the front door is locked.  There’s a knock, and Steve goes to the outer office to open it.  Sullivan walks in followed by Steve, who grabs her beer and leaves, closing the door behind her.
Harry holds his hands out in front of him, and says, “I been good, Officer, honest.”
Mike laughs, picks up the stack of papers on the client chair opposite the one I’m sitting in, and dumps them on top of the already littered desk between Harry and us.  Have I mentioned that Harry’s a slob?  Yeah, world class.
Harry hands Mike a Coors from the half-gone six-pack on the floor by his feet.
“So I thought you’d wanna know,” he says, grinning broadly.  “We got him.”
Harry and I speak in chorus.  “Him?”
“Yeah, him.  It was Wilson.  I thought it was him all along, but it wasn’t until you guys told me about the sister that we could get a toe-hold on it.”
“No fucking way,” Harry exclaims.  That guy was a wimp of the first order.  No way could he have slit that woman’s throat.”
“Looks can be deceiving, my friend,” Mike says before downing about half his beer.  He wipes the back of his hand across his mouth.  “Your nice little client lady turned out to be a stripper, right?
“We brought her sister in and leaned on her a bit.  At first, she was all ‘Oh, my poor sister, who could have done such a thing?'  Lots of tears and hand-wringing.  Then we showed her some pictures.  Some shots of her sister that the lovely Zinfandel gave us, and some not so nice shots of her sister in your kitchen.  And the lady sang like a bird.”
“You’re kidding,” I say.
“Nope.  First off, she never knew her sister was a stripper.  And according to Zinfandel, our ‘Chardonnay’ was willing to provide a few more afternoon delights if some guy struck her fancy.  Off the Wine Bar premises, of course.”
“Of course,” Harry snorts.
“But she admitted to the affair with Wilson, and said she suspected that something was up with him.  She knew he thought his wife was fooling around and that he’d hired some private dick to follow her.  Ha. She saw the humor in that.  I think the words she used were ‘fucking hypocrite.’  She knew the dick had discovered something that made him livid, and it didn’t have anything to do with her messing around, though he still believed that too.  And get this, Harry.  She said Wilson was convinced you were the guy.  He said some stuff to her that sounded like he’d like to get you by the short hairs.”
“No surprise, what with that love-struck look on your face in the picture,” I say.
“It was the eggs, I’m telling you,” Harry bellows. “The eggs!”
 “Well, anyway, she ended up saying telling us that Wilson had said something about getting two birds with one stone.”
Harry and I look at each other, eyebrows raised.
“We talked to the PI, and confirmed that he had followed Miranda to The Wine Bar.  He said he thought Wilson was gonna have a heart attack when he told him she was a stripper, and probably more.
“Enough for me.  I brought Wilson in, told him Miranda’s sister had given us an earful, baited him a bit with Chardonnay’s exploits, and next thing you know, the guy’s all red in the face and talking about how he’d shown her.  And that’s all she wrote, my friends.”
Sullivan finishes his beer, and gets up and heads for the door.  With a finger to the brim of his imaginary hat as usual, he says “So long. You might be called to testify when this gets to court.  In the meantime, stay out of trouble.” Then he is gone.


“’A wuss,’, huh?  What kind of detective are you, anyway?”  I smirk at Harry. 
He unceremoniously shoots me a bird.
“Oh, and you better lay off having two over easy with a nice Chardonnay,” I add.  “It’s really bad for your health.”

The End

This was written for The Tenth Daughter of Mamory.

Two Over Easy and a Questionable Chardonnay, Part 3

This is a continuation of Two Over Easy and a Questionable Chardonnay, Part 2.

Part 3
Needless to say, Harry is pretty happy to hear that the charges have been dropped.  But there is still the matter of his kitchen, not to mention the rather obvious fact that someone is out to get him.
“How’d that body get in my kitchen,” he asks Mike.
“Damn good question.  Your back door lock was picked.  You really should get better locks, Harry,” Mike adds in an aside to Harry. “An eight-year-old pretending to be Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective could have picked that lock with a paperclip.
“There’s no question that Wilson was killed in your kitchen.  You saw the blood.  Her throat was cut, right there on the spot.”  He consults his notes again. “There was no rigor yet, and very little lividity. She hadn’t been dead long enough.  The killer really cut it close (hah, so to speak).  You could have walked in on him.  Or her, though this doesn’t look like a woman’s crime to me.”
“But how could the killer know Harry was even going to be there?” I asked. 
I turn to Harry.  “You went home on the spur of the moment, right?”
“Well, not exactly on the spur of the moment, but yeah, I hadn’t planned it.  I remembered that I’d left the report on the kitchen table, but I could have just as easily brought it in with me this morning.”
Mike asks Harry, “You didn’t tell anyone you were headed there?” 
“Who would I tell?” Harry answers, shaking his head.
“Then the only possible explanation is that the killer was close enough to see you pull up.   I’m thinking that your spontaneous stop at the house was a little bonus for him,”  Mike  says.  “He obviously was going to try to frame you or at the very least cause you some serious inconvenience.  But your appearance gave him some instant gratification.  A quick call to us, and he gets to see us haul you off to the pokey.”
I hadn’t thought of that.  “You mean you think he was still there?”  I’m a little horrified at the thought.  What if Harry had walked in on him?
“Well, you know what my neighborhood’s like, Marty,” Harry says.  “It’s Venice Beach.  There are people everywhere.  He could have been standing across the street, and I never would have noticed.”
 “True.   I guess it would have been odd if there were no one around,” I agreed.
“Well, I’ve got a killer out there, one who seems to have a hair across his ass when it comes to you, Harry.  I’m going to get back to it.  I just wanted to let you know in person that you were in the clear,” Mike says as he gets to his feet.  “Stay in touch, and keep your eyes open.  I’ll let you know if we learn anything.”
Mike doffs an imaginary hat and leaves.  Before the office door can close, Steve comes in and hands me my briefcase.
“Is everything OK?” she asks, her brow furrowed.
 “Better than OK, Kid,” Harry answers.  “Well, all except for my damn house…”
When his wife left him a few years ago, Harry found himself a run-down little bungalow a few blocks from the beach and fixed it up himself.  He did a great job with it too.  He loved the place when he was done.  I’m wondering how he’s going to feel about it now.


Now that he'd been cleared, most guys would have left the police work to the police.  But Harry’s not most guys.  The next morning, we spend a few minutes filling each other in on our activities of the previous day.
Harry begins. “I went and talked to Miranda’s husband yesterday.  He was a little shocked to see me in his office, which kinda shocked me, if you know what I mean. I thought at first it was because he thought I was safely ensconced in a cell in Parker Center.  But no.”
He gets up, goes into his office and returns immediately with a can of Dr. Pepper.  Who drinks Dr. Pepper for breakfast?  Harry.
"Then why was he surprised?  You saying he recognized you?  You must be losing your touch, Harry.”
“Marty, you’re not going to fucking believe this,” he says as he pops the top from the soda can and tosses it across my desk toward the waste basket.  It goes in with a clink, and he says, “Two points; the crowd goes wild.”  He takes a big gulp of Dr. Pepper and continues.
“Yeah, so it turns out that the reason Jack Wilson recognized me was because he was having me tailed.  I nearly fell out of my chair when he pulled out a bunch of surveillance pics of yours truly.”
“What?”  This whole thing has been a little surreal, but now I’m feeling like Alice when she fell through the looking glass.  “He was having you followed?  What the hell for?”
“Oh, it gets better.  These two must have had quite the marriage.  She hired us because she thought he was fooling around, right?  Well, guess what.  He thought she was fooling around. 
“Apparently, for the past several months, she’d been acting a little off.  Nothing he could put his finger on, but just not like herself, you know?  It probably had to do with the fact that she was planning to divorce him, but he didn’t know that. Oh, and that was quite a shock to him.”
“Yeah, but why follow you?  How’d he even know about you?  Seems like he’d be having her followed if he were that suspicious,” I say.
“Yeah,” he answers.  “That’s what I said.  Well, he was having her followed.  And that, my friend, was how he knew about me.”  Harry goes into his office again, and comes out with a manila file folder.
“I got him to give me this, not so hard once he’d heard my tale of woe.  Here, take a look.”  He hands the folder over to me.
Inside, I find a picture of Miranda Wilson and Harry, leaning toward each other over a restaurant table.
“Good picture of me, huh?” he smirks. “That was the breakfast in Van Nuys I had with the lady a couple of weeks ago.  Man, look at those perfect eggs, over easy and ready to boogie. Makes me hungry just looking at them.”
I’m about to say that Harry is always hungry, but ask instead, “And he got this picture because he was having her followed?””
“Yup.  And that’s when they put a tail on me.  Apparently his PI  -- a new guy out of Pasadena, by the way -- thought I was ‘the other man’ and hooked me up right then and there.   Must have been like watching paint dry. I can’t think of anything worse than watching another PI watching somebody else.  I mean, talk about b-o-r-i-n-g.”
“No kidding. So bottom line?”
“Bottom line is, I don’t think Wilson killed his wife, Marty.  I asked him about all the in-and-out-of-the-office stuff I saw when I was watching him.  He is having a fling, with the wife’s sister, if you can believe it.  Said he was taking calls from her.  He’s a sleaze, but nah, he didn’t kill his wife. The guy’s way too much of a wuss.”
I tell Harry about my visit to the Wilson house, and pull out the stuff the housekeeper gave me.  All except the muffin, of course, which is long gone.  I’d eaten every glorious bit of it myself, waistline be damned.
“The Wine Bar.  Huh.  I think I know where that is,” Harry says.  “I wonder what Miranda and her sister would be doing meeting every afternoon in a bar, given the situation.  Let’s go check it out.”

To be continued in Part 4


This was written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory.


Two Over Easy and a Questionable Chardonnay, Part 2

This is a continuation of Two Over Easy and a Questionable Chardonnay, Part 1

Part 2
I knew right from the get-go that Harry couldn’t have done the deed.  Oh, don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that he isn’t capable of mayhem  Our Harry has a bit of a temper, as you may have gathered.  Not that he’d ever kill anyone, but I suspect that if you got him pissed off enough, you might want to watch your back.  It would take a lot, though.
The murder of Miranda Wilson?  Nope, no way (even if he were capable of it, which I doubt), if for no other reason than there is absolutely no motive.  She was just a client, another disgruntled wife in an army (well, OK, maybe just a platoon at this point in our company’s evolution) of disgruntled wives.  Harry handled her account, but he barely knew her.
So I knew the cops would clear him.  You know that cop-shop drama thing about what makes a likely candidate for murder?  Means, motive and opportunity?  Harry didn’t have a one.  So I have no doubt that his tenure as a suspect will be a short one.  But our boys in blue sometimes get mired in their own prejudices and opinions, and can’t see the forest for the trees, especially when they find a guy standing over a still-warm body.   The way I see it, best not to sit on our hands waiting for them to ferret out the truth.  We’re detectives, after all.  So we should detect.  And that’s what I tell Harry.  Eager as he is to put all this behind him, he quickly agrees. 
Besides, he is still pissed that his shiny new kitchen has been sullied. You’d never guess it from looking at him, but Harry is an accomplished cook.  Some might say he is a gourmet cook, but he’d be quick to reject that description.  “Too damn high falutin’.”
Anyway, we decide over our drinks that, beginning tomorrow, we’ll do our thing and find out what the hell’s going on.


After checking in with Steve, Harry and I head down to our favorite coffee shop a block from the office. 
“Okay,” Harry begins as we walk, “you know I met Miranda for breakfast in Van Nuys a couple of weeks ago.” He rolls his eyes.  “Best damn eggs I’ve had in a long time.
“Anyway, she filled me in on her husband’s schedule, addresses, etc.  I kept an eye on him for a week.”
Miranda Wilson had been convinced her husband was fooling around.  She was ready to leave him, but she wanted something to hedge against his tendency to be a tight wad when it came to discussing a divorce settlement.  She hired us to get the goods on him.  Thank goodness she paid in advance.
Harry jumps aside to avoid a skateboarder, muttering.  “People should have to get a license to ride those damn things.
“So, I stayed with him door-to-door for a week, from the time he left for work in the morning until he came home at night.  Tony took over from six o’clock ‘til lights out.”  Tony is a retired cop and a long-time friend of Harry’s dad.  We throw a little work his way now and then.  
“I think she was right that her husband had something going on the side.  He acted like a guy with a secret, but we never caught him with another woman.  Or man, for that matter.”
We turn into the coffee shop, grab a table against the window, and give our order to Dodie, our favorite waitress: coffee and a full stack for Harry, and coffee for me. 
After she heads to the kitchen, I ask, “If you never caught him at anything, what makes you think there’s anything going on?”
“He acted pretty squirrelly, Marty.  The guy’s a bean counter, for heaven’s sake.  He spent precious little time in the office counting beans and an awful lot of time outside in the parking lot talking on his cell.  Seemed like he was out there at least once an hour.  What kind of accountant does that?”   Harry shakes his head.  “I’m telling you, squirrelly.”
Dodie appears and sets down a couple of thick diner mugs of steaming coffee.  “Here ya go, fellas.”
Thanks, Doll.”  Harry winks at Dodie, then dumps four sugars and a healthy dollop of cream into his coffee, giving her time to move out of earshot.
“I’m convinced I  woulda found something with more time.  I told Miranda when we met that a week wasn’t long enough, but she wasn’t up for more.  I planned to talk to her about extending the surveillance when I delivered the report yesterday, but we know how that turned out.  Mark my words, though, that guy’s up to something.” 
“Yeah, maybe. Still…” I say.  “OK, well, he’s obviously the place to start.  If he got wind that Miranda planned to drag him into divorce court, with a stop at the cleaners along the way, that could be motive.”
“Yep.  Like they say, it’s usually the husband.”
Dodie puts an obscene plate of pancakes in front of  Harry.  As I watch him smear butter carefully on each pancake in the stack and then douse the whole thing in maple syrup, I shake my head.
“You’re a heart attack waiting to happen, my friend,” I warn.
“Yeah, and you’re just jealous.”  He turns his attention to his breakfast, while I watch.  Well, OK, maybe I am a bit jealous…
As Harry shovels a week's worth of calories and fat into his mouth, we agree that he will dig deeper into Jack Wilson’s nefarious activities, and I will look into our late client.  The lady didn’t get herself killed and dumped on Harry’s kitchen floor by accident.  There has to be some kind of connection other than the obvious.


I take a ride up to Santa Clarita.  I have a sympathetic chat with the Wilson’s tearful housekeeper, and leave 30 minutes later with a list of her friends, a copy of her calendar for the past month, and a knock-your-socks-off homemade blueberry muffin.  Didn’t somebody say that good things come to the righteous? I’m glad now that I resisted those pancakes.
About a few miles away from the Wilson house, I pull into a Vons parking lot.   Unable to resist a minute longer, I take a bite of the muffin.  Heaven.  As I chew, I glance though the stuff I was able to wheedle out of the housekeeper.  A little charm goes a long way, I always say. 
A quick perusal of Miranda’s date book reveals one interesting tidbit.  There are several notations about meeting her sister at a place called The Wine Bar.  In the afternoon.  Either the ladies are (oops, guess I should say were, at least in Miranda’s case)  secret winos, or there's more to that than met the eye.  It bears looking into.  I finish my muffin and head back to the office to make some calls
When I walk in to the outer office, I find a decidedly nervous-looking Steve.
“There’s a cop in your office, Marty.  I asked him to come back this afternoon, but he insisted on waiting.  I hope you aren’t mad that I told him to wait in your office.”
“No, that’s fine.  I’ve got nothing to hide,” I tell her. 
Nothing that’s not locked up, anyway, I think to myself.
Handing my briefcase with the information about Miranda to Steve, I say, “Here, hang on to this out here until he leaves.”  Then I head in to see what bad news awaits me this time.
Sitting in one of my client chairs one of the better cops in the LAPD.  We’ve worked with him before, and Mike Sullivan’s a good guy.  He gets to his feet as I walk in.
“Marty.  How the hell are you?”
“Mike, this is a bit of a surprise.  I’d ask you what brings you here, but I guess I know.”
I shake his hand and take a seat behind my desk.
“You here about Harry’s situation?  I wouldn’t have thought you’d catch the case.  Isn’t Venice a bit outside the Wilshire Division borders?”
“I’m on temporary assignment to Pacific. When I saw who was involved, I made sure I got the case,” he says. “I know Harry, and I know there’s no way he’s going to shoot some woman in his kitchen.”
“You’ve got that right,” I agree. “You guys ready to drop the charges?”
Mike smiles broadly. “That’s why I’m here.  First thing I did was check Harry’s alibi.”  He pauses,  pulls a small spiral-bound notebook from his jacket pocket, and flips it open.
“He had lunch at an Olive Garden in Santa Clarita, just like he said. The server  remembers him because he was his first customer of the day, sometime around 11:30.  His check was cashed out at 12:05.  The ME put Wilson’s time of death at 12:30, give or take. With the traffic on the 405 that time of day, there’s no way Harry could have gotten to his house much before we arrested him, which was at one o’clock.   And even then, he must have been flying.   I should give him a ticket for speeding.  But he’s off the hook for the murder.  No brainer.”
I exhale sharply.  “That’s a relief.  Harry’s going to be…”
Just then, the door to my office opens, and Harry walks in and sees Mike sitting in front of my desk.
“Oh, shit.” He walks over to Mike Sullivan and shakes hands with the big detective. 
“Under any other circumstances, I’d say I was glad to see you, Mike.  But right now?  Not so much.”
He sits in the other chair.  “So what am I ‘going to be,’ Mike?”
“A free man, my friend.  A free man.”

To be continued in Part 3.


This was written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory.


Two Over Easy and a Questionable Chardonnay

This is a Tremaine Investigations story. You can read the first in the series here.

Steve McGuire bursts through my office door, her red curls bouncing wildly around her freckled face like so may drunken corkscrews.  She catches me leaning back in my desk chair, my Allen Edmonds wingtips on the desk.
“Marty, Harry’s on line two, and he sounds kinda -- I dunno -- frantic.  I know you said you didn’t want to be disturbed, but I think you’d better take his call.”
Yeah, I did tell her I didn’t want to be disturbed, but we both know it had more to do with a light post-prandial snooze than with a heavy workload.   Sleep has been eluding me, though, so might as well take the call.  Besides, this doesn’t sound quite right, you know?  Harry, frantic?
Harry Carrold is my partner in our not-as-yet wildly successful detective agency.  Oh, sure, we bring in enough business to keep the wolves from the door (usually), but not so much that I can’t indulge in a little desk-chair siesta on occasion. 
Harry and I couldn’t be more different, but our partnership works.  Who knows, perhaps because of our difference.   He’s Oscar to my Felix.  There’s little that gets him into a tizzy and that’s what makes this sound really off.   I might get wonky when something upsets my very orderly applecart.  But Harry?  Nah, Never happen.  Until now, maybe, if Steve is right.
I swing my feet to the floor and sit up.  “You’re exaggerating, right? Harry is the last guy I’d expect to be frantic.”
“I know, right? But I’m telling you, Marty, that’s how he sounds.” 
Steve is our secretary, office manager, and all-around gal Friday.  She’s also a bit of a mother hen when it comes to the two of us, despite her advanced old age of twenty-four, and now she’s all but ringing her hands as she speaks. 
“OK, relax.  I’ll talk to him.  I’m sure it’s nothing.”


“You’re where?”  I shouldn’t be, I suppose – Harry can be a bit of a loose cannon -- but I’m surprised.  “How the hell did you end up in jail?  I thought you were going up to Santa Clarita this morning to deliver the surveillance report to Miranda Wilson.”
 “I did. I did.  Listen, Marty, I’m as bumfuzzled as you are.  I don’t have a clue what’s happening here.”  Steve’s right; Harry does sound a bit frantic.  “When I got to Miranda’s house, she wasn’t home, so I left the report with the housekeeper.  I stopped for lunch on the way back.  Then remembered I’d left the file copy of the surveillance report on my kitchen table, so I swung by the house to get it.”
I sigh heavily.  “Harry, will you get to the point?  Where does jail come into all this?”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, if you’d shut up half a minute.  When I got home, she was there.”
“Who was there?  What’re you talking about?”  I run my hand through my hair, frustrated. 
“Miranda Wilson, for Pete’s sake.  Of course she wasn’t home when I got to her house.  She was in my fucking kitchen.  Flat out on the linoleum.  In a pool of blood, Marty.”
What?  Was she dead?  Did you drink your lunch, Harry?”
“Hell, yeah, she was dead.  Aren’t you listening to me?  She was deader’n Kelsey’s nuts.” 
Yep, Harry is definitely frantic.  “You called the cops, right?”
“Oh, no-o-o, didn’t need to,” Harry says, voice dripping in sarcasm.   “You can’t find a cop when you need one, but I’d no sooner picked my jaw up off the floor than they screeched into the driveway, sirens blaring.  Burst right in like they owned the joint and arrested my ass.  For murder, Marty.  Cuffs, Miranda, the whole fucking nine yards.  That’s what I been trying to tell you.  Listen, you gotta get me outta here.”
“Calm down.  There’s gotta be some kind of mistake here.”  I’m on my feet, pacing around my desk at this point.
“Gee, Marty, ya think?  They didn’t seem to think so when they were printing me and taking my portrait for their rogues gallery.  They took my fucking belt, for crying out loud.”
“Okay, okay, Harry.  I’ll send Carrington right down.  Don’t say a word until he gets there.  We’ll sort this out.” 
“Damn straight, we will. Now get me outta here.”


My intercom buzzes and it’s Steve, using her “professional” voice. “Sorry to bother you, Mr. Tremaine, but Harry and Mr. Carrington are here."
“Please send them in, Stephanie,” I reply, calling Steve by her given name, since we’re being professional and all.
A moment later, Steve opens the door to my office and ushers the perp and his lawyer in. (Heh, always wanted to say that.)
I look Harry over and say, “Well, you don’t look too worse for wear after your little stay in the hoosegow.”
“Yeah, real funny,” Harry says as he throws himself down on my office couch.  With my keen powers of observation,  I can tell he’s none too happy.  I am a trained detective, after all.
I turn to George Carrington, who’s taken a seat in one of my desk chairs.  George is our lawyer, the guy who helped us get our ducks in a row when we opened the agency.  Criminal law is not his bailiwick, but he’s the only lawyer I had on my rolodex.
“Do you know what happened, George?”
Before George can answer, Harry pipes up.  “I was framed, that’s what fucking happened.”
He gets up and storms through the door that connects our offices, slamming it behind him.
George rolls his eyes, and fills me in.  “I don’t know a lot, Marty.  Apparently the police got an anonymous call saying that a woman had been killed at Harry’s address, and that the killer was still in the house.  According to Harry, they got there minutes after he got home.  He’s out on bail, but he’s far from out of the woods.”
George pauses and gives me a searching look. “Look, Marty, I mean… There’s no way that Harry could have…?”
“Of course not.  Clearly he is being framed.  But by whom, and why?”
“Well, I guess that’s more in your wheelhouse than mine.  Yours and the police’s,” George says. “But I gotta tell you, Marty, I didn’t get the idea that they were going to do much looking for another suspect.  They’re pretty convinced that they virtually caught a killer in the act.  The woman was still warm, for God’s sake.  It doesn’t look good.”
George licks his lips and leans toward me.  “Say, you got anything to drink in here?”
I’ve long suspected that our esteemed barrister might be a bit of a tippler.  I pull open the lower right drawer on my desk and take out the bottle of Jim Beam I keep there for when things get bad.  I just never expected that they’d get this bad.  I grab three glasses from the tray on the filing cabinet against the wall to my right, pour two fingers of bourbon into each, and hand one to George.  Then I walk to the connecting door, open it and say,  “Harry, come on in here and have a drink.  We’ve got a lot to talk about.”
When Harry returns and sits in the other chair in front of my desk, ill humor radiating from him, I hand him a glass of bourbon.  He makes short work of it.
I walk around my desk and sit down.   After I drain my glass, I set it on the desk with a resounding thunk.
“OK, Harry, let’s get to work.”

To be continued in Part 2


Written for The Tenth Daughter of Memory.



It’s a good thing that Buddy really likes Clarence.  Sharing the small blind for hours while they wait for dinner to wander by would be agonizing otherwise.  Old Clarence isn’t the sweetest smelling rose on the bush, not by a long shot.  But Buddy and Clarence have been friends for most of their lives, and hunting is one of the many hobbies they enjoy doing together. 
“Hey, lookee there, Bud.”  Clarence points into the woods.  “Ain’t that one of them ruffled grouse?”
Buddy looks where his friend is pointing. “Yep, I do b’lieve it is,” he whispers, “but that ain’t what we’re here for, Clarence.  We come back without grub for the cookout, we’re in deep shit, and you know it.  So best we keep it down so we don’t scare ‘em away when they come by.  The other guys are gonna be right pissed off if we do.”
 The small town of Hill Holler is nestled in the back of beyond, as the locals like to say.  Life in the Holler is tough.  They don’t get many visitors in this part of the Piney Mountains, other than the hunters who come every season, and then leave taking deer with them.  Everybody knows everybody else in Hill Holler and residents rely on each other for support and community.  They have to; there isn’t anybody else.
Every November, the town holds its annual cookout and barn dance.  The eagerly anticipated Hill Holler Hootenanny is the last hurrah of the year before folks hunker down for the winter, always a harsh ordeal for the community.  The whole town contributes to the festivities.  Men folk take to the woods in true hunter-gather fashion, while their women start mixing and stirring.  The bounty brought forth in the days before the Hootenanny not only creates a feast unlike any that Hill Holler residents enjoy any other time of year, there are always enough fixings for every family to put something by for the coming months.
 The seductive aroma of freshly baked bread and baking powder biscuits follow Glory Sue as she comes in from the mudroom, where she has left trays of the baked goods to cool. 
“Don’t you just love Hootenanny?” she asks as she tightens the sash on her apron.
A chorus of women’s voices agree enthusiastically.
Loretta adds the fruit on her cutting board to the pile already in the bowl and wipes her hands on a tea towel.  “You know it, hon.  I look forward to it all year, if for no other reason than it gets Buddy out of the house for a few days.”   
“Yep, them boys sure do love to go huntin’, don’t they?  Can’t see the attraction myself,” Glory Sue comments.
“Maybe not, but you always seem to enjoy the grub they bring home for the cookout,” Loretta smirks.
“Well, yeah, there’s that, I guess,” Glory Sue says as the other women in the kitchen laugh.
Women are gathered in kitchens all around Hill Holler, whipping up their favorite recipes for the feast the town will enjoy at Hootenanny the following day.  Loretta’s kitchen is baking central.  Glory Sue joins Loretta at the counter next to the sink and they work side-by-side peeling and slicing apples for the pies they’ll bake that afternoon.  Wilma Marsh and Marge Dayton stand at the other counter assembling fruit cobblers and the traditional Hootenanny coconut cake.
The ladies, and their men folk, too, if anyone were to ask, would all agree that getting ready for the festivities is almost as much fun as the big day itself.
 “I’m so glad the weather’s cooperatin’ for a change,” Loretta says to Glory Sue as they spread red-checkered tablecloths over the picnic tables in the town square.  She remembers too many years when they had to move the meal into somebody’s barn because of rain.  Today, the sun is shining and the air is crisp and clean.  “It’s perfect Hootenanny weather,” she declares.
Loretta feels a little thrill of anticipation.  She is really looking forward to the afternoon and evening to come.  They’ll eat well, and then while the men clean up, as is tradition, the ladies will retire to their bood-waar to put on their best dancing dress and get pretty for the dance in the Jaspers’ barn that night.  Oh, it’s gonna be a fine time, Loretta thinks with a smile.
Soon, the square is filled with excited voices.  Young children run hither and yon playing tag.  The town’s older folk are bundled in heavy sweaters and shawls and settled into lawn chairs out of the path of the shrieking children.  Older boys play catch and pretend they don’t notice the gaggle of giggling girls clustered on the bandstand, where their view of the boys’ game is ideal.   
The women have laid out the food they prepared in the days before, and oh, what a feast it is.  The only thing missing is the meat, which the men have been slow roasting for hours over a huge pit back behind the firehouse.  The smell of the cooking meat riding on the fall air has everyone’s mouth watering.  A clang of the fire bell announces that dinner is about to be served.
First out of the big double doors of the firehouse is a group of men lugging several kegs of beer, which they set up in the shade of a big live oak.  Norm Marsh and Fred Dayton follow, each of them toting several very large jugs of wine. They set them down with a clunk on one of the picnic tables.  As he unscrews a couple of bottle tops, Fred announces, “We’re goin’ high class this year, ladies.  We got here some genuine eye-talian Chianti and a nice chardonnay.  It’s gonna go real fine with the roasts.”
The last ones out of the firehouse are Buddy and Clarence, each holding the end of a long spit of roasted meat.  They set the ends of the spit into the forked braces on a rack specially built for the purpose.
As the town folk gather, oohing and ahhing at the sight of the juicy roasts, Buddy says, “Come and git it, folks.  These two been turning over the coals till they was done just right.  And there’s several more where these came from.”
“Yep,” Clarence chimes in, “we got real lucky this year.  We done caught ourselves a huntin’ party of ten guys, all of ‘em young and tender.  They’s plenty to go around, so dig in.”
Buddy takes up his long fork and carving knife, and turns to Loretta, who’s first in line with her plate.
“White meat or dark, Darlin’?”

Written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.


I remember You

I remember you. 

You were that guy.  You know, the one our parents warned us about, the one they prayed we wouldn’t bring home in a fit of teenage rebellion.

Despite our parents, or maybe because of them, you were the one we all lusted after, that slightly dangerous guy, that bad boy who could take us all the way to cool.

You wore your hair long, shiny with Brylcreem, slicked back into the perfect DA.  And, oh, your eyes.  Your eyes promised something we didn’t yet know we wanted.

You lived in dungarees, rolled twice at the ankle.  The t-shirt beneath your old leather jacket was white, with sleeves long enough to hold your Joes.

You never walked anywhere in your old black Chuckie T low tops.  You sauntered, casual in your indifference to what anyone thought, confident that they thought all the right things.

Oh, yeah, I remember you.  You were that guy. 

What the hell happened?


Sunday Morning: Catching Up With Guilty Pleasures

Sunday morning.  to-do list neon flashing,
claxon of responsibility sounding, blaring.
laundry, vacuum, and shopping list all
clamoring in chorus nagging: me, me, me!

and I go missing, coffee cup in hand.
keys at my fingertip, I escape to the world
of my guilty pleasures. I visit and catch up,
sharing laughter and coffee with you

were they to look, they might see me,
coffee in hand and hands on keys
but I’m off on a journey: California and
Canada. Australia, Alaska, Aruba.

and everywhere, in between and beyond,
hither and yon, sipping and savoring, sharing
coffee and comments, catching up with you
and these pleasures and, no, not guilty at all.


Written for One Shot Wednesday


Mother Dearest

(photo by Jordon Miller, www.openphoto.net)

I watch as my daughter Margaret waters the sad little plant on my window sill.  She’s been puttering around the room since she arrived, all the while talking at me with simple words in a slightly too loud voice. 

She a lovely girl and I’m glad she’s here.  But even though I see her every week, I miss my daughter.  This is not the daughter I knew for so many years: the ragamuffin tomboy in pigtails whose knees were always dirty, the coltish young teenager who struggled to grow into her feet while she grew into her own, the proud graduate holding her diploma high in a triumphant “I did it!” gesture.  At every stumble along that path, she came to me. I held her and soothed away her tears, reassured her when she was scared, and joyfully celebrated her successes with her.  This polished woman is a stranger, a daughter barely recognizable, someone who comes to me now only to fulfill a perceived duty.

Duty done for the week, she leans down to give me a peck on the cheek, and heads for the door of this sterile place I call home.

“Bye.”  Margaret pauses in the doorway and turns to look back at me.  Her face is a study in confusion.  She misses me too, but she can’t wait to get away.  She loves me, yet I disgust her.  I’m her mother, the one person in her life she’s always been able to count on to take care of her.  Yet here I sit, unable to take care of myself.  It’s a conundrum for sure, and I’m sorry that she has to grapple with it week after week.  

You probably think it makes me mad to be treated like a dreaded obligation, but you would be wrong.

Just look at me.  Who could blame her?  I picture myself as I’m sure she sees me, a dried up old prune in a ghastly pink and yellow flowered house dress I never would have bought for myself and sensible (read ugly) shoes, sitting in a wheelchair, slumped slightly.  

Oh, Maggie, that’s not who I see, I think.  I still see the young woman I once was.  I turned heads back then too, but the glances I received were anything but disgusted, like the one you struggle to keep off your face now.

I know what she thinks.  I know what they all think.  And who can blame them?  

They think I’m old.  Well, I guess I am.  On the outside anyway.  On the inside, I’m still the same girl I was when I was twenty.  It’s only when I’m surprised by a glimpse of the face in the mirror (can that really be me?) that I’m brought fast-forward into the present.

They think I’m bonkers.  Oh, they don’t say that to my face.  No, I’m sure it wouldn’t be considered kind to say that to a dotty old lady.  But they talk.  Dementia, they say.  They talk about me as though I’m either deaf or not right there in the room with them.  I’m old, but I’m not deaf, not yet, anyway.  And evidence to the contrary, perhaps, I’m still right here.  

They think I say and do inappropriate things.  Maybe I do, but I’ve said and done far more inappropriate things.  Back in the day, that was part of my charm, if I do say so myself.  I was a hot shit (and that would be one of those “inappropriate things, I guess), secure in my personal power.

So, no, I don’t blame Margaret.  I completely understand. I probably wouldn’t enjoy hanging around with a senile old lady either, even if she were my mother.

You know, I was never afraid of getting older.  I always knew I’d still be me, just made wiser by the passing years, maybe.  What I never realized was that the years might bring me wisdom, but they’d also steal away my power.  I never expected to be sitting here alone with only my memories to keep me company.  But that’s my life now, except on the days when Margaret comes to visit.


I feel a surge of panic.  “You’ll come back?” I ask before she makes her escape.  

Smiling, she comes back to my side and takes my hand.  “Of course I will.  Don’t I always?”

I lay my wrinkled hand on top of hers.  “Yes, you do, dear.  You always do.”

She leans down and kisses the top of my head, and then she’s gone.  

Alone again, I let my mind drift back into the past, and think about that time in Barbados.  We drank too much rum punch and all ended up skinny dipping in the resort pool that night.  Ha.  The pool lights weren’t turned on at night again for the rest of our stay.


The nurse at the desk looks up from her work as Margaret passes on her way to the door.

“How was she today?” she asks.

“Oh, you know.  About the same.”  Margaret chuckles.  “She went on a bit about swimming naked with a bunch of people in a resort pool in Barbados.  She’s never been to Barbados, but, oh, baby, she really had a great time.”

“She knew who you were?” the nurse asks. “We’ve had a couple of episodes recently when she didn’t recognize staff members and got very agitated when one of us approached.”

“Yes, she still recognizes me,” Margaret replied.  "Thank God."

“That’s good.  I’m glad.”  The nurse smiled gently.

Margaret looks back down the hallway toward the room she just left, and sighs. “Of course, she still thinks I’m her daughter.”


I haven’t been skinny dipping since.  I think it’s because I haven’t had that rum punch since.  Dangerous stuff, that punch. If you ever have some, beware.  They sell it everywhere in Barbados.  Only $3.99 a liter.  It looks so harmless with its pretty pink color, like that Hawaiian something-or-another the kids drink. And it goes down just as easy.  But, wow, it packs a wallop.

Did I tell you about the time I went skinny dipping in Barbados?  I was just telling my daughter Margaret about it.  Oh, that was some trip, and you've gotta love rum punch...


The nurse clucks sympathetically.  “I’m not surprised.  But your visits are a comfort to her, and that’s what counts.”

“I know. Linda, I know.  It’s heartbreaking, though.”

“Of course it is.  As bad as I feel for her, I feel worse for you.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch your daughter slip away into Alzheimers.  It’s so unusual for someone still in her thirties.  My heart goes out to you, Margaret.  It's just not supposed to happen like this.”

“Thanks, Linda.  You're a peach.“  Margaret smiles at the nurse and gives a slight wave of her hand.  “Bye.  See you tomorrow.”  


Written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory.



She’s his mother, and he loves her. Of course he does. But, sometimes?  Holy guacamole.


“I have to run some errands.  Want to come along?”  His mother has been bustling around all morning, and is now shoving stuff into her already overstuffed handbag.  How she carries that thing, he can’t imagine.  Not that he knows anything about physics, but if he did, physics would probably say that the weight of that bag hanging off her body would rip her shoulder right out of the socket.  

She pauses at the door and looks back at him.  “You coming?”

The fourteen-year-old is home from school today.  It’s the first snow day of the year.  He’s been watching an old Star Trek rerun, but he’s seen it about umpty-nine times.  Besides, he likes spending time with his mother.  Usually.  He doesn't see much of his dad since the divorce, and ever since his older sister left for college, it’s been just the two of them.  He decides to tag along.

“OK.  Hey, Mom, can we get a hamburger at Shaunessys?”    He’s pretty sure that he’ll see some of the guys at the luncheonette in the front of the popular variety store.  Maybe he can spend the afternoon with them.

“Sure, but let’s get a move on.  I have a lot of stops before then.  Put your boots on.  The snow looks pretty deep.”  His mom heads out the door.  “Lock the door behind you.”

The boy stops in the front hall, pulls on his boots and grabs his jacket from the jumble of garments hanging from the coat rack.  After zipping up, he reaches into the jacket pockets and yanks out his hat and gloves and puts them on as he hurries to catch up with her.


They make their way around town, stopping at the gas station, bank, drug store, and dry cleaners.  At each stop, the boy waits in the car fiddling with the radio dial while his mother goes in and takes care of business.

“One last stop at the post office, and then we can go eat,” she says as she hangs the cleaning from the hook behind the driver’s seat.

Finding a parking spot on Main Street is difficult.  The plowed snow fills some of the available spaces.  But after a trip around the block, his mother finds a space about midway between the post office and Shaunessy’s on the opposite side of the street, half a block away.  As they cruised past Shaunessy’s the first time, the boy spotted a few of his friends sitting in a booth at the window and he's glad he decided to come along.

“Come inside with me, please.  I’ve got to pick up some packages in addition to the regular mail, and I think I’ll need your help.”  

His mother works at home, doing bookkeeping for several small businesses in the area, and she likes to joke that her office is in a post office box.  

The wide flight of stone steps in front of the double doors of the post office are still slightly icy in places.  They pick their way up and push through the doors into the warmth inside.  His mother gets the packages from the clerk at the counter and hands them to the boy.  Then she collects the envelopes from her “office” and they head out to drop the mail in the car before going over to Shaunessy’s.

As they start down the steps out front, the boy hears a slight yelp from his mother and looks over to see her sitting on the top step.  To his horror, she continues down the remaining steps, bumping along on her butt like a demented slinky or something.

He just keeps walking and goes straight to the car.  Out of the corner of his eye, he can see his mother get to her feet, brush herself off, and gather up the mail that went flying when she went down.  He's pretty sure his friends across the street at Shaunessy’s must have seen the whole performance.  When she gets to the car, he turns to her, his face now flaming red with embarrassment.

Mo-om!  How could you?”


Written for the Tenth Daughter of Memory