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The Dark Mysteries 1 & 2 Ebook Bundle

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Book 1: A suspenseful noir mystery, set in 1935 post-Depression Manhatten and old Key West. Hurricanes and mayhem at your service.

Book 2:  Linda Morgan thought she had a safe office job. She soon discovers nothing is safe. Armed with her wits and determination, she finds herself in a perilous cat and mouse game with the killer.

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August 10th, 1935

A fierce pounding on the door to my room set a jolt of pain rushing through my brain. I mouthed a silent curse, pulled the pillow over my head, and wished the intruder would go away. No such luck, the banging continued.

I forced open my eyes. The shade was drawn on the only window in the room. Diffused light combined with my bad eyesight made everything look surreal. The tick, tick, tick of the electric fan near the window did little more than shuffle the heat from one side of the room to the other. Summer in New York. Who the hell needs it?

I squinted at the clock, grabbed my Luckies, and crawled out of bed. While I took a moment to set my lungs on fire, my unknown caller started rattling the doorknob.

“Hold your horses,” I shouted.

Although the cigarette took the edge off my headache, I knew from experience that only time or a shot of whiskey would quell the tempest in my gut. It didn’t help that my neighbor was playing “She’s a Latin from Manhattan” on his Victrola. The wall might as well not have been there. I ground my teeth and winced when the record skipped a beat. He’d played it so many times that I knew exactly where the scratches were.

I scooped my robe up from the chair and drew it on before throwing open the door. I was surprised to find my boss, Otis Gerhardt, standing there. He held his fedora in front of his massive stomach. His face had a strained, apoplectic look from the effort of climbing the three flights of stairs leading up to my apartment. It was not a journey he would make without good reason.

“What’s going on, Otis? Not here to fire me I hope. In case you forgot, you gave me the day off.”

He shifted his bulk from one foot to the other, refusing to meet my gaze. “Can I come in, Jim?”

His voice had an edge to it. I licked my lips and felt a line of sweat begin to form on my forehead. Since the stock market crash in twenty-nine the newspaper business, like most industries, was struggling to survive. A lot of reporters had lost their jobs. It wasn’t inconceivable that he was here to tell me I was next. I couldn’t think of any other reason for his visit.

Otis pushed past me without waiting for an invitation. He stank of cigar smoke and sweat. My stomach did a little shuffle that made me edge toward the metal bucket I kept next to my desk for trash. It was all I could do to stub out my cigarette against the inside edge of the bucket.

Otis looked around the room, saw my hat rack at the foot of the bed, and started toward it. “The coppers were down at the paper looking for you this morning, Jim.”

My head felt as if I’d slammed it into a wall two or three times. I wondered if I’d done anything outrageous the previous night. The last clear memory I had was of buying drinks for a leggy, blond cabaret dancer. After that, too much whiskey left everything a blur.

“What did they want?”

Otis started to hang his hat then changed his mind. Instead, he faced me. Twisting the hat in his hands like he was wringing out a towel, he cleared his throat. “It’s your sister, Helen.”

“Helen? What about her?”

When Otis refused to look me in the eyes it hit me like a rogue wave.

“She’s dead.” I spoke the words Otis couldn’t.

The room began to swirl. I think I might have fallen if Otis hadn’t grabbed my elbow to steady me. It seemed like I was looking at him through a frosted glass window. As if I was caught in the middle of a bad dream.

“You gotta be wrong, Otis.” The first wave of denial washed over me. “It can’t be Helen.”

“I’m sorry, Jim.”

My legs began to shake. Stepping away from Otis I leaned against the wall.

“What happened?”

“All I know is that Helen was killed in her apartment. The coppers think she knew her killer. I’ve got Cummings out trying to dig up some more information. I’ve got to get back to the paper. Follow up on this myself. I just wanted to give you a heads up.”

“Any suspects?”

“Don’t know.” Otis looked away. “As soon as I get any more information I’ll…”

He was interrupted by a sharp rap on the door. “Police,” a voice called out. “Open up, Locke. We need to talk to you.”

“Let ‘em in Jim,” Otis said. “I’m sure they’re here to tell you about Helen. I’m just glad I beat ‘em to it.”

When I swung open the door I found Detective Michael Boyle standing in the hall with another copper I’d never met.

Boyle was the ugliest man I’d ever known. He was so skinny that he could have slipped under the crack at the bottom of my door like a cockroach. His grisly bad looks were compounded by the fact that half his ear was missing. A large scar cut along his left cheek from his mutilated ear to the corner of his mouth.

He’d almost been suspended from the force more than once. Word on the street was that he had something on one or more of his superiors from prohibition days. I’d also heard he liked to beat up on women.

They barged in. Boyle’s partner scanned the room and then squeezed past me. Without saying a word he unbuttoned his suit coat and hitched his ass onto the edge of the desk. While he sat glaring my way, Boyle leaned in close to me. Otis flopped down on the bed. We might have fit one more person into the room if we all took a deep breath and used a giant shoehorn.

“You find the bastard who killed my sister?”

Boyle frowned when he caught a whiff of my breath. It didn’t stop him from shoving his face up close to mine. “How’d you know she was dead?”

“I told him,” Otis said.

“That the first you heard about it?” Boyle asked.

I nodded. “Why?”

“Your sister knew her killer,” Boyle said. “Seems she let him right in. Makes me kind of wonder where you were around three this morning.”

Otis heaved himself up from the bed. “This isn’t necessary, Boyle.”

Boyle looked over at Otis. “Yeah it is, Mister Gerhardt. Look at this dump Locke lives in. His sister was a rich little lady. Who do you think stands to gain the most by her death?”

“That’s enough,” Otis said. “Can’t you see this is hitting him hard?”

“That’s the booze,” Boyle said. “Not the news.”

“You’re being absurd,” Otis said. There was a hard edge to his voice. “I’ve known Jim for ten years and he doesn’t have it in him to kill anyone, let alone Helen.”

“And I’ve been a cop a lot longer. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have it in him to kill, Mister Gerhardt. That includes you.”

Boyle pulled a small notebook out of his pocket, flipped it open, and appeared to study it for several moments before turning his attention back to me.

“I spoke to your sister’s neighbor,” Boyle began. “A Mrs. Ila Quinn. You know her?”

“We’ve met.”

“Had an interesting conversation with her,” Boyle said. “She told me she heard you and Helen fighting about a year ago. She remembers when because it was just after Helen’s husband died. Said you stopped coming around after that.”

Boyle closed the notebook, tucked it back into his pocket, and continued. “Quinn told me she thought she saw you walking along the street in front of their building last night. That means right now you’re the only suspect I have. You can answer my question, or I can drag you down to the station and we can talk there. Now where were you?”

The problem was that I didn’t remember where I had been. I had no memories of going anywhere near Helen’s apartment the previous evening. I’d gotten blotto while out celebrating my birthday with my friend Ed Granger. It was something I’d been doing a little too often lately. We’d started the night around seven with a visit to Sammy’s Bowery Follies. After that, everything became a bit hazy. I vaguely remembered Ed putting me in a cab sometime after midnight. I’d have to talk to Ed to verify where else we’d been.

“I was with Ed Granger.”

“Not the most upstanding alibi,” Boyle said.

“He’s a well respected businessman.”

“He’s a bootlegger.”

“Look Boyle, I didn’t kill my sister. I told you who I was with last night. If you don’t believe me, go talk to Granger. Right now it’s time for you to scram. Arrest me or get the hell out of my apartment.”

Boyle’s nostrils flared. I wondered if he was going to take me up on my suggestion.

Behind me the other cop’s clothes rustled as he slid off the desk. He elbowed his way past me. “We’ll check out your alibi. Keep yourself available in case we have any other questions.”

He tugged on Boyle’s jacket sleeve. “Let’s go Mike.”

Boyle looked like he wanted to take a swing at me. To my surprise, when his partner opened the door Boyle followed him into the hall.

Otis crossed the room and we both waited in the open doorway until we heard their footsteps beating down the stairs.

“I don’t think Boyle likes you,” Otis said.

“The feeling’s mutual. If the son of a bitch comes back I’m gonna toss the skinny bastard out the window.”

Otis laid a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t take him lightly, Jim. He’s the kind of cop that’ll make the evidence fit the investigation.”

“He seems convinced that I killed Helen.”

“If it’s any consolation, Jim, I meant what I said about you not being able to kill anyone.”

Otis was wrong. One of the reasons Helen and I hadn’t spoken in over a year was that she blamed me for the death of her husband. The problem was, whenever I sat down and had a serious conversation with myself about it, I wondered if maybe she wasn’t right.

Otis stepped into the hallway.

“I’ll be in a little later today,” I said.

“You need to take some time off, Jim.”

“It’s my sister, Otis. That makes it my story.”

I saw something flicker in his eyes, distaste maybe. “It’s not your story Jim. I want you to take some time off.”

“Otis, I need to…”

“Two weeks Jim. I don’t want to see you down at the paper before then.”

If Otis believed I could let this go he didn’t know me. I bit back a retort. Now wasn’t the time to argue the point with him. After I closed the door behind him I headed over to the single window in the apartment. I felt the shade tear as I pushed the brittle fabric aside to pry open the window. Thick sticky air engulfed me as I climbed out onto the fire escape.

The sun tried to break through the clouds. Hot air funneled between the buildings, creating a breeze. There was barely enough movement to rattle the five-foot long wooden revolver hanging over Frank Lava’s Gunsmith Shop across the street. It looked like we were headed for another miserable day.

Without looking, I could tell the traffic was heavy below me by the barrage of sound and smell that wafted all the way up to my third story perch. I looked down in time to see Otis jump to avoid a puddle before climbing into a Checker cab. As I watched, the cab sped out into traffic, narrowly missing the fender of a brand new Packard Roadster.

I’d heard from a friend that my sister had recently purchased one just like it. For a moment I felt a flush of excitement. A wild hope that Helen was coming to pay me a visit overwhelmed me. She wasn’t, of course. I was going to have to face the fact that Helen was dead. I knew I’d never be able to make up for the pain I’d caused her.

I should have made more of an effort to fix what was broken between us. It wouldn’t have taken much. It shouldn’t be so hard to say you’re sorry. I’d always thought things would work out, that we had all the time in the world. Funny how all the time quickly becomes no time at all. My head hurt. I wanted a drink. It felt as if someone had reached down my throat, grabbed my gut, and squeezed for all it was worth.

A woman once told me that I was incapable of showing emotion. She was wrong. I took a deep breath, leaned against the outside wall of my apartment, and let the tears flow.

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