Robert J. Schneider
***PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT. INFO AT THE END FOR PURCHASE OF THE FULL EBOOK VERSION at a low price.
Chapter 1 of 12
At exactly noon on a mid-September Tuesday in the year 2013, Monica McCool, the thirty-three year old receptionist for the Pringle-Luna Literary Agency, walked into her boss's office and announced a visitor.
"I have no scheduled appointments today," replied Lana Luna, proprietress and sole owner of the literary agency despite the Pringle portion of the agency's name. Barely a year ago the slim, thirty-five year old brunette inherited the agency after her uncle Ron Pringle's untimely death. Prior to that sad event Lana had worked as a research assistant for a mid-size investment company. Her love for her favorite uncle and her love of literature had persuaded her to leave her former lucrative but boring position to try and make a go of her uncle's literary agency. Lana's vague notion of how a literary agency conducted business and even vaguer notion of how one actually made money from it was of little concern when she gave notice to her manager at Robicheau & Devane.
Monica answered, "He's a walk-in. He wants to hire a detective."
"Didn't you tell him we are not a detective agency?"
"I'm only the receptionist/office manager/assistant, you're the boss. You should tell him. Besides, things are slow around here. You're not even covering my salary. Find out what he wants. Maybe you can make some money. His name is Michael Calabrese. He's single and he's good looking...and not that much older than you."
Lana did not appreciate Monica's smart mouth and occasionally disrespectful manner but she had grudgingly come to like and depend on her. At first Lana did not even think she needed a receptionist to say nothing of an office manager. After finishing her second day in the office Lana realized that Uncle Ronny's literary agency seemed to only have two author-clients: One was a female romance writer who had authored two books that Ronny managed to sell to Harlequin. Her next seven efforts were rejected by every romance publisher in the country. The other author-client was a reclusive man who wrote, well quite frankly, violent, pornographic novels in a style best described as Mickey Spillane revved up several notches, How her uncle had sold one of his detective novels to a new mystery imprint of a well known publisher was indeed a mystery to Lana. Comparing the published book to the dozen or so manuscripts in the author's office files convinced Lana that Ronny had heavily edited that one effort.
"Very well, send him in," Lana said to Monica, hopefully in a cool and reproachful manner.
The Pringle-Luna Literary Agency really could not afford Monica's salary but she was efficient in her own way, and surprisingly, she had a knack of finding near-sales worthy manuscripts in the slush pile.
When Michael Calabrese entered her office, Lana immediately noticed that he certainly was a handsome man, probably around forty, blond hair and hazel eyes. After she introduced herself but before he could begin talking Lana said, "I'm afraid there has been a mistake, Mr. Calabrese. I'm not a detective. This isn't a detective agency."
Her visitor replied, "But the sign down the hall said to see you with any questions about I. I. I."
"Yes, well that's the building owner's idea. You see, International Investigations Inc. seems to have suddenly and mysteriously abandoned its office suite at about the same time I took over the lease of my uncle's literary agency space and . . ."
"You mean you can't help me? They can't help me?"
"I'm not a licensed private investigator. I am a literary agent. As I was explaining, the landlord asked me to, well, show the former offices of I.I.I. to prospective tenants. The sign directing you here is a bit misleading, I suppose."
Michael Calabrese said, "They have ads all over the place: Yellow Pages, White Pages, Internet . . ."
"Yes," Lana interrupted. "Apparently I.I.I. paid for the ads and the office lease in advance. My responsibility is to show you their office space if you are considering leasing it. I have the keys right here." He looked so downhearted and disappointed that Lana just couldn't send him away. She softened her tone by saying, "Why don't we walk down the hall and look over the space. It's quite nicely furnished. We'll sit down there and you can tell me about your problem. Maybe I can offer some advice."
Monica McCool gave Lana a smug look as she and Michael Calabrese walked past the reception desk. Lana led Michael down the hall toward the former office suite of International Investigations Inc. At the far end of the hallway could be seen the only other tenant of the 12th floor. The Mena Employment Agency was a bustling office with people constantly coming and going. Lana's receptionist was technically an employee of the Mena Agency. Anna Mena, the dynamic and somewhat pushy owner of the employment agency, had managed to talk Lana into contracting for a receptionist the first day Lana took possession of her Uncle Ronny's office. Monica McCool showed up the next day and Lana could never seem to summon the courage to send her back.
Lana unlocked the detective agency's office door and after they both found comfortable chairs in the lavish conference room Lana asked, "Mr. Calabrese, why do you need a detective?"
After a moment of hesitation Michael replied, "My father killed my mother and then killed himself. This happened two weeks ago in their house in Queens. The police dropped the investigation after a few days. To them it was cut and dry. Husband looses it, hits his wife, she falls, hits her head on the coffee table, dies, then he gets a gun and shoots himself." END OF EXCERPT
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