Tag Archives: Hard Boiled Myths

The White Room—I

 by Helene Baron-Murdock

coast

Abalone divers found the body floating in the surf tangled up in bull kelp. The call landed on Detective Jim Donovan’s desk. He called down to the Weston County Sheriff’s dispatch and talked to the shift supervisor. “Do you have a deputy at scene? I can’t feature driving all the way out to the coast if it’s just a 10-55.”

“Let me check the log. . .appears like it came in as a 10-54 from one caller at Acropolis Cove. Someone else called it in as a 10-32. With all the divers out there, that sounded about right. Then the local volunteer fire and rescue got on scene and when they pulled the body out of the water they thought it might be a 10-71, but definitely a 10-55.”

“Ok, dead body, possible drowning, and a definite coroner’s case, but a shooting? Whose jurisdiction is that out there?”

“That’d be Mount Oly Volunteer Fire Department.”

“Baxter?”

“The same. He’s even saying that it might be a 187.”

“ Murder? Figures, he’s such a drama queen. Where’s the coast deputy? Is he on days off?”

“No, he’s handling a 415 domestic right now at the Sparta Creek Beach trailer park. It got pretty dicey for a bit. They’ve got the abuser in custody but he’ll be tied up for a while.”

“Alright, I’m on my way.”

“Look on the bright side, you’ve been freed from paper work in a stuffy office and you get to enjoy a nice pleasant drive out to Weston County’s gorgeous coast.”

Donovan grunted, not all that convinced. “I’ll 10-97 when I get there. Advise the coast deputy I’m on my way and have him meet up with me when he clears the domestic.”

Donovan headed south out of Santa Lena on the main four lane. He exited the freeway at Corinth Bay Road and drove west. He could tell by the mass of gray clouds on the horizon that the coast was fog bound, so much for enjoying the gorgeous scenery. It would take him forty minutes to reach the coast highway and another quarter of an hour to Acropolis Cove.

Traffic slowed as he approached Dardanelle, the little upscale arts community astride the Corinth road. The tiny burg with its one way streets tended to be a bottleneck but as he got closer to town he saw a fire and rescue unit and Highway Patrol directing cars around a demolished piebald  junker, windshield trashed, twisted like a candy wrapper. The meat wagon was just revving up to head for the hospital and let out an ear splitting howl as its siren screamed down the road back toward Santa Lena. A yellow tow truck was parked at the shoulder with a disgruntled but not too severely damaged tinted window black Suburban on the flatbed. Once clear of the wreck and west of Dardanelle he followed a caravan of cars all in a hurry to get to the coast and the fishing village of Corinth Bay, the coast highway, and points North and South.

Traffic thinned out the further north  he travelled as the highway got windier, steeper, and narrower, cornering around sheer cliffs and then whipping down gullies into hairpin turns and then back up again only to repeat the same course in the next few miles. By the time he reached Acropolis Cove with its distinctive escarpment of eroded columns resembling those of an ancient Greek temple, his arms were cramped  and his neck was stiff. The parking lot was crammed full of RVs and pickups with camper shells.

Donovan notified dispatch he was at scene and parked behind the red Fire & Rescue rig and the bright yellow ambulance. A stiff breeze hit him with a frigid seaborne slap as he exited the sedan and he regretted not bringing a heavier windbreaker. He could tell from Baxter’s expectant expression that he was not a happy camper. `

“You took your damn time!” Baxter accused. He was a short man with a ruff of curly gray hair escaping out from under his fire department ballcap. He had the dark and weathered complexion of a man who lived his life outdoors. Donovan seemed to remember that he was a cattleman or a sheep rancher when he wasn’t being the volunteer chief.

“Someone should have been out here sooner but apparently the coast deputy was delayed on a domestic.”

Baxter nodded in resignation that that was all he could expect in the way of apology for taking up his time. “Yeah, heard that on the radio this morning. Sparta Creek is a cesspool of surfers, druggies, and the homeless. The county needs to clean out that rats nest. It’s a blight on our coastal community.”

Donovan had heard the spiel before. “That our customer?” he asked looking down the embankment to the beach to where a blue tarp bulged over an elongated shape. The wide stretch of sand was dotted with men and women in their black wetsuits and snorkel gear, some emerging from the surf with mesh bags and pry bars. The oppressive overcast like a lead plug gripped everything in its gray light accompanied by the tang of cold ocean air and rotting seaweed. Panoramas of sheer red cliffs, driftwood littered dingy beige sand, spray dashed craggy monoliths, roiling surf, wave after choppy wave all the way out to the swelling shimmering steel gray horizon seemed somehow dreary and unsettling.

Baxter led the way and pulled back the tarp. Donovan made a mental picture of the prone figure before crouching down for a closer look, taking note of the clothing, complexion, hair, and any signs of injury or unusual markings such as tattoos: pale blue coveralls, one tattered sneakers, white, brown, and contusions around the forehead and jaw. He guessed male by the body type. Appeared to be wearing a harness of some sort, straps from the shoulder crossing the back to a belt cinched at the waist.

“Looks like one of them hang glider types. They like to jump the cliffs a little further up Sparta Creek ways,” Baxter offered. “They use that long stretch of Sparta Creek Beach to land.

“No helmet.”

“Yeah, saw that. Banged his head on the rocks a bit, I’d say.”

“The wounds look clean. Could have been washed in the surf.”

Donovan straightened and gazed out at the field of guano covered monoliths splashed in stolid indifference by breakers. A stiff icy breeze pushed against him and he resolved to get back in his sedan as soon as possible. “Where’d they find him?”

Baxter pointed to a pair of almost identical smaller crags closer to the shoreline at the foot of a precipice topped thick with conifers. “Wedged between those two, tangled in the kelp. The divers like that spot beyond the furthest twins where it drops off deep to an underwater cliff jammed packed with sea slugs. They call that spot the New York City of single-footed critters there’s so damn many!”

“You go out there and pull him in?”

Baxter looked at him like he was crazy. “We had the divers run a line out to the body and pulled it to shore.” Then, “What? They were already wet!” And as if to change the subject, he pointed at the left side of the body. “What d’you make of this?”

Donovan had noticed the ragged hole in the jumpsuit just above the waist and below the harness belt. It was surrounded by a large area of discoloration. “Could be blood. Or grease.”

“I think it’s a bullet wound.”

“You looked.”

Baxter didn’t deny it.

“You didn’t happen to find his wallet or identification while you were looking, did you?”

“Nope, not that I could see, and he’s completely nekkid under that jumpsuit.”

Donovan noticed two men descending the path to the beach with a gurney. “Coroner’s van is here, you can release the ambulance and your boys. Thanks for the help.” Then he saw a deputy peering  down from the edge of the parking lot. He recognized him as a kid name of Royce. “Did you get details on the guys who found the body?” he asked Baxter.

“Yeah, a couple of guys from the valley. They’re in their trailer. I told them you probably want to talk to them.”

campgroundDonovan headed back to the parking lot after he’d watched the coroner’s assistants turn the body over and load him onto the gurney. Facing up, the corpse did nothing more than confirm that he was a white male. Royce met him at the top of the path.

“Sorry about the delay, Donovan, but I had a live one. Some dirtbag using his woman for a punching bag. Again.”

Donovan nodded sympathetically. “All in a day’s work. I get paid the same sitting on my ass in the office or freezing my ass off in the fog. Baxter here has the info on the guys who found the body. They’re in a trailer here somewhere in this parking lot.” He pointed with his chin. “Probably those two guys in wet suits over there looking like they have more than a casual interest in what’s going on. Get the story from them and file the interview so I can add it to my report.”

“No foul play like I been hearing on the scanner?”

“Naw, straight up accident. Some people just have an overactive imagination. He’s got some contusions and probably other injuries related to getting banged against the rocks. We’ll let the ME sort that out.”

“Ok, I’ll get to it.” The deputy turned to Baxter whose face had gone a bright red and then as if he’d forgotten to ask something. “Any truth to the rumor that you’re thinking of retiring?” He said it with a boyish expectant grin.

Donovan made a wry face. His retiring would open up the ranks to promotion for certain ambitious young officers. He remembered when he was one of them. “Still in the thinking stage. Been there for the last couple of years. Could be a couple more years before it stops being a rumor.” He laughed at the transparence of the deputy’s disappointment.

“Retire? You gonna retire?” Baxter acted indignant to cover his irritation at the slight. “You don’t want to retire. Man, that’s the last thing you wanna do!”

Donovan and the deputy turned their attention to Baxter to hear his reasoning.

“I knew this guy, worked for Fish and Feathers, put in thirty years. Up and retired, dead in three months.”

“Now there’s a happy thought.”

He didn’t often dream of the dead although in his line of work he’d come across his fair share of corpses. Every once in a while he was awakened by a vivid dream of a dead body, the images lingering in his consciousness as he transitioned to a wakeful state. Sometimes he was in the uniform of his early days as a deputy, other times in his civvies as a detective, and often the corpse belonged to someone he knew or had known even if they were not currently deceased. And at times he had had conversations with them as if being dead was the only way they could get his attention. Always he had the feeling that he was being guided or escorted in these encounters by an accompanying shadow or shade.

“He had to assume the wound would have been fatal had the subject not drowned. That made him primary on a possible homicide. He hated to admit it, but Baxter was right.

The images were still with him as he drove into the office the morning after his trek to the coast. He was on a beach crowded by large crags on all sides anxious to avoid getting doused by the cold ocean spray. There was a covered body hovering at his feet, a long dark, barely discernable cigar shape. There was also a party in progress, drinking, and drunks raising a ruckus, getting soused, shouting it seemed, and singing. The beach transformed into the interior of a bar, and stretched out on the pool table surrounded by votive candles, the body of someone he knew, someone from long ago. He’d awakened with a start at that moment of recognition. They had been in the same class at the Academy, Lopes, Larry Lopes, aka “Lucky” Lopes.

Lucky had been hired as a patrolman for the better paying Santa Lena City PD upon graduation which was how he got the name “lucky.” They weren’t necessarily good friends but buddy enough to grab a beer or two on occasion. Donovan remembered him as wild, cowboy impulsive.

Lopes had responded to a domestic on the west side near the city limits. Protocol demanded that he stage and wait for backup. It had been a busy night for the PD and all their other units were tied up elsewhere, Dispatch had called for mutual aid from the County Sheriff. Donovan had been the closest County unit and was there in five minutes, but it was five minutes too late. The radio had crackled with alerts of shots fired, and then the dreaded triple 9, officer down. Later it came out that Lopes had advised dispatch he was going in alone, not that that had lifted the weight of residual guilt from his shoulders, and it revisited him from time to time.

Deputy Royce’s report was waiting for him when he signed in. It tallied with what Chief Baxter had said. Hector Royas and Charles Yu, both from the burbs south of the Capitol, had suited up and gone out for their first dive of the day, approximately 0900 hours. A large raft of bull kelp obstructed their passage to their dive spot. In moving it out of the way, they discovered the unidentified victim. Originally believed that it was another diver but on closer examination saw that the subject was not wearing diving gear. They hailed someone on the beach to call 911 and stayed with the body until Fire & Rescue arrived. They assisted the volunteers in bringing the body to the beach and awaited the arrival of law enforcement. Dispatch log shows the first report of possible 10-32 at approximately 0913.

The medical examiner had filed a preliminary report cc’d to him and the shift commander. He always marveled at the obfuscating bureaucratese they were couched in. You had to crack them like a walnut just to get at the meat.

The still unidentified decedent, white male, 5 foot 7 inches, 200 pounds, approximately 30 years of age, died in a manner consistent with drowning. Because he was in the water for an indeterminate amount of time, the TOD was between 12 to 36 hours prior to recovery. Contusions on the head and hands were post mortem. Entry and exit wound to lower right side of torso consistent with gunshot was not.

He had to assume the wound would have been fatal had the subject not drowned. That made him primary on a possible homicide. He hated to admit it, but Baxter was right, it was a 187.

Toxicology report indicated traces of amphetamine, cannabis, and a few other as yet unidentified residues, possibly psychotropic. The harness found on the deceased appeared to be nonmanufactured for its specific purpose. Identity via fingerprinting and facial metrics still pending.

Donovan knew he’d need another cup of coffee if he was going to continue to read the passive voice mind mush. He made his way to the breakroom and immediately realized that he had been elected to make a fresh pot. As he was banging around, tossing out the old grounds and looking for the filters, Nina Vaughn, the Violent Crimes Unit SOA and de facto den mother, looked in smiling and asked, “Anything I can help you with, short timer?”

Nina had one of those husky sassy voices that made you pay attention.

“What do you mean,  short timer?”

“You know exactly what I mean.”

“I’m just looking for some coffee filters.”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“What was the subject?”

“Don’t play dumb.”

He smiled at her. “I’m only as smart as my pay grade will allow.”

“That is definitely a short timer attitude.” She smiled back at him in a rather flirtatious den mother way. “Did you get the message that Chief Baxter called early this morning. I left the number on your desk. He said it was important.”

“If it’s from Baxter, it’s self-important. No I didn’t, but then you know the state of my desk.”

“Not only are you a short timer, but you’re short sighted as well. I put the pink sticky note right in the middle of your keyboard.”

“You should’ve put it on the mouse. I avoid the keyboard whenever I can. In fact, I hate the keyboard so much once I’m retired I’m never going to touch another keyboard again.”

“Aha! I was right!”

The phone answered after the second ring. “Mount Oly Volunteer Fire Department, Chief Neil Baxter speaking, how can I help you?”

“Baxter, Donovan, what do you have for me?”

“Hey, detective, yeah, thanks for calling back. I found something, or rather one of my boys found something yesterday when we were out on a call for a cliff rescue. Some damn tourists, like they always do, think they can climb down to the beach but never think about how they’re gonna get back up. And then the tide comes in. . . .”

“Cut to the chase.”

“Well, like I said, the boys were doing a cliff rescue and one of them found your victim’s wing.”

“Wing? I’m not getting what you’re talking about.”

“Well, going on the assumption that he was a hang glider, this would have been his gear.”

“You’re the only one going on that assumption. What makes you so sure it belongs to the deceased?”

“Remember that harness he was wearing? I’ve done a lot of hang glider rescues and I never seen one that looked like that. Theirs are more like cradles. And if I don’t miss my guess, that guy’s harness looked DIY.”

“Do-it-yourself?”

“Right, and this wing we found is definitely homemade. What you wanna have me do with it?”

mountoly sta

Mount Oly volunteers had brought the wing back to the station in Orcala, a coastal community of the retired well to-do with prized coastal vantage just off the main highway consisting of a post office convenience store gas pump, a hotel restaurant, a driftwood souvenir shop, and the volunteer fire station. Numerous dwellings dotted the steep hillside overlooking the Pacific like the nests of sunset worshipers.

“Not like any hang glider sail I’ve ever seen.” Baxter had propped the wing up against a wall in the engine bay. A collection of odd fabric squares resembling a quilt was stretched over most of a lattice made of interlaced bamboo lashed with fine wire. It had suffered some damage in the surf but was still remarkably sturdy for something that appeared so delicate. “And I think it had a twin. If you look at the design, it actually looks like a bird’s wing. And see this little do-hickey here, with the handle? I’ll bet if you pull on this mechanism it makes the wing flap at these hinges.”

“Can you show me where you found it?”

“I can take you there or I can show you on a topo in the office.”

“Whatever’s most convenient.”

Inside the small office with a desk, a radio squawking staticky incomprehensible chatter, and a jumbled assortment of firefighter turnouts and helmets, Baxter pointed to the wall map. “This here is our jurisdiction. We go as far south as Argo State Beach and as far north as the county line.” He placed his finger on a spot on the map. “This is Acropolis Cove where we found the body. And here, less than a mile up is where we found the wing.”

Donovan stared at the map. It meant a whole lot of nothing to him, and even though he had a general knowledge of the county’s topography he once again thanked his lucky stars that he’d never been assigned coast duty. Nothing said out in the middle of nowhere as much as this stretch of coast did.

“This up here is Sparta Creek Beach, right?”

“That’s right, and right there in that bow in the hillside is the Sparta Creek drainage and where the trailer park is nested.”

“So if I was a hang glider, where would I launch from?”

“This highpoint here at the south end of the beach.”

“Why not from up here? The elevation’s considerably higher.”

Baxter grinned. “Right there is an abandoned Girl Scout summer camp, Camp Wannaseeme, as the locals used to call it, cause the gals liked to go skinny-dipping in the dammed up feeder to Sparta Creek and weren’t particularly shy about it. That’s a hush-hush restricted zone of the Area 51 variety now.”

“You pulling my leg?”


In Part Two: Moonshine Maneuvers

Contents Vol. I No. 5

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Five

Dime Pulp, A Serial Fiction Magazine, Issue Five features a seven chapter chunk of Lee Malone’s adventures in The Last Resort as the former super model now small town newspaper reporter finds another body, this time while visiting with friends at the Franklin Family Resort, aka The Mint, and the knight on a motorcycle, Blackie, falls under a shadow of suspicion as the plot thickens. And what of this mysterious kidnapping in her past?

Helena Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth featuring Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan, wraps up with the concluding part two of Valentine’s Day in which a mass shooting out on the Sage Valley Rancheria is taken over by the FBI and a DHS bounty hunter.

Lackland Ask, a little richer, thanks to a purloined wallet/address book, and drier, thanks to Tugboat Annie and her crew, is being followed, but by whom? A Detective Story picks up with Lack Ask on the run, pausing for a change of clothes, and having his hard heart go pitter-pat at the sight of a comely tomato, the tailor’s daughter. And all of a sudden that address book with the strange indecipherable writing might be worth something.

Also in this issue, the start of a new feature, Dropping A Dime, News, Views, and Reviews in which yours truly, Perry O’Dickle, aka The Professor, will offer up his considered and considerable opinion on the fine art of pulp fiction, reviews of crime fiction, old and new, as well as news of upcoming publications and links to like-minded pulp sites

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and A Detective Story, as well as another short story based on Greek myths under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myth.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Five

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant


 

TLR banner321Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her. 

The Last Resort, Chapters 1-3
The Last Resort, Chapters 4-6
The Last Resort, Chapters 7-10
The Last Resort, Chapters 11-13
The Last Resort, Chapters 14-20

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Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.  Revisited as crime fiction are the strange death of Hippolytus, the agonizing death of Heracles, the slaughter of Penelope’s suitors,  the sparagamos of Orpheus, and the cursed lineage of Pelops. Hard Boiled Myth taps into the rich vein of classical literature to frame these ancient tales in a modern context.

Long Shot I
Long Shot II
Notification Of Kin
Valentine’s Day I
Valentine’s Day II

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Lackland Ask is the name. ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime friction magazine. This is my story. It starts with a blonde. This kind of story always starts with a blonde. The brownstone was on the Westside and easy enough to find. So was the mug’s yellow roadster. It stuck out like a new shoe in a cobbler’s shop. I was being a sap again. I woke sitting straight up, sweat pouring out and over me, my undershirt drenched. I was going to have to change my shorts. Some dream. They worked me over, demons in dingy cable knit sweaters. They pumped my arms and peered in my face with eyes as black as eightballs. He handed me a hat. “The pièce de résistance.” He said it like he was serving me dessert.

This kind of story always starts with a blonde
“I was being a sap again.”
“Some dream”
“demons in dingy cable knit sweaters”
“He handed me a hat.”

dime-reviews-hdrThe focus is on the novella as a medium for crime fiction as exampled by Daniel Pyne’s Catalina Eddy and Stephen Hunter’s Basil’s War. Primarily utilized in YA fiction, the novella is perhaps underrated as a form ideally suited for the terse, largely cinematic, action focused prose that characterizes much of crime fiction.  The novella doesn’t have time to waste with aimless ruminations, flabby Freudian conjecture, or Clancy Bloat, aka geek bait (really just footnotes inserted into the narrative), that invariably activates the “cut-to-the-chase” mode to scan the page looking for something germane to jump out.

Dime One

Valentine’s Day—2

by Helene Baron-Murdock

Donovan found the time in the radio log where Sheriff Collins had contacted him and noted it. That was when they shut the investigation down or were shut down by the Feds.

            “Go to channel 12!” Collins wanted to talk to him on his cell phone, but the reception was minimal this far out on the lands. “Channel 12” was code for channel 6, the scrambled channel, meant to confuse the scanner heads who hung on every word transmitted over various law enforcement frequencies. Of course any self-respecting scanner head had a descrambler and going to channel 12 would only fake them out for so long. “Shut it down! I want you to put everything back where you found it, every hair, every shell casing, every fingerprint, all of it, every bit of forensic evidence. I don’t want a trace that would show we’d ever been there.” At his protest, Collins replied, “Just do as I said. The Feds will be out there shortly, hand it over to them and leave. I’ll explain when you get back to the office.”

FBI Heli He heard it first, and the black chattering shape grew larger coming in from the southwest. The chopper swept low over the farmhouse and then back toward the access road where he’d been waiting by his sedan. There was a wide spot in the stubble field beyond the gnarly giant live oak near the entrance to the front yard. A tornado of fine beige dust and sand engulfed the chopper as it set down. The rear passenger door opened once the dust settled and two figures stepped out.

            He could tell by the bouncing confident stride that the taller one was a woman. The man was wide shouldered built close to the ground and moved like a perfectly oiled killing machine.

Not your likely Fed duo.

            She held out her hand and introduced herself. “Special Agent Sharon Eckes. You must be Donovan.” 

            He shook her hand, a firm grip, not a perfunctory formality. She was dressed for the field, dark work slacks and the standard issue FBI windbreaker, black lanyard with badge ID, and a standard issue ballcap gathering her sandy blonde hair. Her partner was a little more fastidious in a brown leather jacket over a cranberry polo shirt that detailed a well-defined six-pack. His slacks were knife edge creased and a few shades lighter than his brown desert boots. On closer appraisal, he was an older man by the leathery bulldog jowls of his sun darkened features. The close cropped pate said ex-military, a squared off hand grenade with an aggressive hard stare.

            “This is Wayne Tanner, DOD consultant with DHS. We’ll be taking over the investigation from here on out. Thanks for securing the scene for us.”

            Tanner deigned to speak, and at almost an octave higher than he’d expected. “Is this all exactly how you found it?” He motioned toward the farmhouse.

            Donovan nodded, taking an instant dislike to the man. “Yep, exactly as it was found by the first officers on scene. So except for their footprints in the sand, it’s a pristine crime scene.” He said the last with a hint of a smile.

            “We heard you had a crime scene van out here. And animal control?”

            Of course they would have monitored the local LE radio traffic. “Standard Operating Procedure on multi-casualty incidents. Out here, we thought we might need a tracking dog, and the Animal Control vet is also the head of Search and Rescue Team. They were canceled before they could deploy.”

            “What agencies and personnel were at the scene? I’ll need names, ranks, of anyone who was here.”

            Donovan shrugged. Now he was certain that he detested the short stack of muscle and spleen. “County Sheriff’s dispatch can probably fill you in on who the responding officers were. You’ll have to contact HQ at High Point on what Florist Service personnel were out here.”  He’d used a common nickname for the men in the green trucks out on the lands, known also as “greenies”, but it failed to get a reaction. He didn’t mention that by the time the forensics van had packed up he saw Grandma Spider hightail it on her ATV over the rise in back of the ranch house.

            On his way out to the main road just passed the fork in the rutted dirt track he met up with a black Mercedes mini motor home with a couple of bewildered techs in FBI ballcaps. He’d pulled off as far as possible to one side without getting wedged in the drainage ditch to let them pass.

            The driver’s side window floated down. “We on the right track to the scene?”

            “Right you are. Keep following the ruts and bear left when you come to the fork.”  How he loved the Feds. The driver didn’t even give a thank you. And if they followed directions they would soon find themselves down pasture where the road played out amidst nothing but cattle.

              With the time he’d vacated the scene and turned the incident over to the Feds so noted, and with a few, very few, comments appended, the report was done. The Sherriff could embellish his timeline however he wanted to frame the narrative he would spin to the Board of Supervisors and exculpate himself. Except that wasn’t the end of the story.

Donovan knew enough to avoid swinging by the office to report in just yet, given the state of mind the Sheriff would be in, best to let the man have a chance to count to ten a few million times. At Santa Lena General, he was informed by the nurse at emergency receiving that the Apes social worker had left a number for him to call. The old gal, who might have pushed her husband down the stairs on Valentine’s Day, a love story yet to be told, appeared to be sleeping in her wheelchair in the holding room, a sure sign of guilt according to the experts. Let sleeping dogs lie, he thought to himself.

            Patients might gripe about hospital food, but the cafeteria always had a great entrée. He’d learned that as a young deputy. The servings were ample and the coffee always hot. And it was cheap. He’d skipped breakfast and hadn’t even had a chance for his mid-morning power ring, cop talk for “doughnut”. The rigatoni was tempting, and he pointed to it when the server questioned with her dark eyes. The phone to his ear rang twice before it was answered. “Shirley Holmes,” a husky professional voice spoke.

            “Detective Jim Donovan here, I’m at the hospital.” He slid the tray with the heaping plate of rigatoni toward the register, pausing to lift a large paper coffee cup from the stack.

            “She’s as much as admitted that she pushed her husband down the stairs.”

            He grunted an acknowledgement as he fished a twenty from his billfold and handed it to the woman behind the register. “I’m in the cafeteria. If you meet me here I’ll buy you lunch, and we can talk about it. Unless you recorded what she said, it’s really your word against hers. And they’ve got a terrific rigatoni on the menu today.”

            “I’m Vegan.”

            As always when he encountered that assertion he wanted to ask, “Is that a planet in this solar system?” But he didn’t.

            “And I’m slammed with clients, plus my boss wants a prelim report on the quote unquote accident. I could maybe make some time around three-ish?”

            “Ok, here’s what we’re going to do. I’ll set you up with Detective Nelson. He’ll give you a call seeing as how his last case just mysteriously vanished and arrange a meet up to take your statement and the Valentine Day killer’s.”

            “What’s his name again?”

            “Nelson.”

            “Does he have a first name or is it just ‘detective’?”

            “Uh,” Donovan paused at the coffee carafe and gave it a few hearty pumps, “You know, I’m not quite sure. Robert? Richard? I’m guessing. He’s Nelly to everyone in the squad room.”

            “I’ll remember that.”

Donovan parked the sedan on the concrete apron taking up most of his backyard. There was an unwritten rule in law enforcement that a work vehicle should never be parked at the curb of one’s domicile, official language designating place of residence. Too easy and too tempting to break in and or vandalize. The previous owner had poured the slab that covered ninety percent mustangof the small backyard crowded with a detached garage probably built in the early fifties. It was a sturdy two hundred plus square feet that housed his personal vehicle, a Mustang convertible boy toy, a midlife crisis gift to himself. Maybe the original owner didn’t like mowing the lawn although the piebald patch of turf in the front yard had been well maintained when he bought the place almost twelve years ago. He was the one responsible for its current shabby overgrown neglect. So what was he hiding under the slab? Bodies? Something that had occurred to him more than once. Cop thinking, he called it.

            The neighbor’s cat came loping into the yard from a hole in the fence and rubbed against his pant leg as he unlocked the door to the covered porch that housed the washer dryer. The cat raced ahead as the door opened and stood next to the bowl by the washer and gave an imploring mew. Donovan reached into the box of kitten treats on the shelf with the laundry detergent and dribbled a handful into the bowl. It had been more than a few years, he’d lost track, since he’d announced “Honey, I’m home,” to give the bride a chance to stash her stash and straighten herself up, tuck a stray lock behind an ear, pretend she’d fallen asleep while reading the same book she’d been reading for the last couple of months. It was a familiar cop story. So was the divorce.

            The house was cold, and he set the thermostat up a notch as he headed for the front door and the few items of mail scattered on the rubber welcome mat under the mail slot. He stooped to pick them up and the way he grunted they were apparently heavier than they looked. Nothing, nothing, nothing, bill, and more nothing. He set the bill on the table in the entrance way with the other bills and tossed the rest into the circular file that had once been an umbrella stand.

            The day caught up with him as he climbed the stairs to the bedroom, a weariness that had been building over his last shift and the one before that. He was old, no “getting” about it, and retirement, once playfully lobbed around the squad room when the job got too demented or absurd and the endless hoop filled bureaucracy just making it worse, was a serious consideration, especially after the reprimand.

            He tossed his jacket on the bed, placed the hip holster and firearm in the top drawer of the dresser, whipped off the tie, unbuttoned his shirt, dropped his trousers, slipped off his sock, and stepped out of his briefs. The tile floor in the bathroom was cool against his wearied dogs. He didn’t hesitate stepping into the shower and turning it on full blast. First there was the shriveling cold water pelting his bare back and then slowly as the warm water worked its way up the plumbing a warm soothing wash before the scald of hot that made him jump back and adjust the mix.  By then he was wet and the tension, the dust from the lands, the weary knotted road muscles were just washed away.

            He replayed his conversation with the boss as the stinging spray washed across his face. Actually it was less of a conversation, more like a reluctant audience to Tim’s rant against the Feds. “Can you believe it, they want to cover this up, like it never happened!”  Homeland Security had declared the murder scene a classified black site because the killings were obviously a terrorist act. Everyone present at the scene was advised that any disclosure of classified information regarding the terrorist incident would result in hefty fines and or prison time. “Bullshit!” Tim shouted in frustration, and there was no arguing with that.

            Drying himself off he turned on the TV and sat on the edge of the bed to catch the early news. He could have predicted it. A throng of reporters swarmed Sheriff Tim Collins in his gold starred uniform finery as he was leaving Headquarters. The questions were of the “is there any truth” variety and specifically referenced the multiple shooting out on the lands. So much for secrecy. He felt like saying “Houston, we have a problem” but he didn’t talk to the TV. That was his ex-wife’s routine.

            He dressed checking the time and messages on his phone. Royanne from the coroner’s office wished him a Happy Valentine’s Day, and Judy from the DA’s office sent him a picture of candy hearts that said things like “You Rock”, “Got Luv?”, and “Hanky Panky”.  

            He urged the cat out the back door with a light nudge of the toe of a dress loafer. Latching it shut he strode across the yard in the encroaching twilight in a pair of stone washed jeans, a pale blue collared shirt under a sturdy beige canvas windbreaker. He backed the Mustang out of the garage and let it idle a while to warm up the interior, the winter evenings still a little brisk in February. He tuned out the radio news and slipped a favorite Etta James CD into the dashboard slot. Once on the street, he steered east toward Old Town Santa Lena.

              Only two hotels in Santa Lena guaranteed government rates. One was a dive with a big heated pool. The other was almost a dive with a big heated pool and a cocktail lounge. He parked in the lot, no valet service, and walked up the steps into the lobby. He’d been to the Santa Lena Hilton a number of times, probably as many times as the establishment had changed hands so it might not have been part of the Hilton chain anymore, but that’s what everyone called it. The entrance to the lounge was to the left of the reception desk. He stood in the doorway letting his eyes adjust to the dusky light.

            She was sitting by herself at the end of the bar poking at the ice in her tall cocktail with a slender crimson straw. She sensed his approach and turned as he asked, “Buy you a drink?”          Special Agent Eckes gave him a weary smile. “Sunshine Superman. I was wondering if you’d show up.”

            No one had called him Sunshine Superman since his rookie patrol days so that made him feel young as well as in love.

“Chief Warrant Officer Dessy was on an operation in Northern Afghanistan and got caught in an ambush. He is presumed missing in action.”

Donovan made a mental note to renew his health club membership. He stared at the ceiling, one of the myriad shades of gray in the darkened hotel room. His heart rate was dropping back to normal and he was no longer breathing as heavily. All in all, he felt like a wrung out dishrag. She wasn’t a big woman, but she was fit, a runner. That would account for the stamina. She’d held him tight and forced her tongue down his throat. One thing led to another.

            He heard water running through the half open bathroom door. He thought back to their preliminary banter in the lounge over drinks. She’d said, “I know you think we’re just a bunch of overeducated desk bound dummies.”

            “With guns.”

            “What is it with cops? Can’t they accept anyone outside their exclusive blue fraternity to be an armed sworn officer?”

            “Too many guns as it is. It’s a safety issue.” 

And then they got into a back and forth about the classification of the murder scene. He called it a cover-up.

            “You mean a broom and rug operation?”

            “Exactly.”

            “You’ll never hear me admitting that.”

            “And your partner, the DOD DHS universal soldier. . . .”

            “He’s not my partner.”

            “Who is he then?”

            “I’d tell you but I’d. . . .”

            “Yeah I know, ‘have to shoot me’. I think I know the backstory, and if I figured it out, you can bet some investigative snoop will tumble to it.”

            “No comment.”

            “Ok, I’m going to tell you what I think the scenario is and you’re going to blink your big beautiful eyes, one blink is yes, and two is no.”

            “Who am I, Paula Revere? But alright, try me.”

            “Major Jowls is a military gunslinger bounty hunter cleanup man and he had a very specific target. Someone he’s been tracking for quite some time.”

            “What’s the code again? Sorry, that third cocktail went to my head. One yes, two no?”

            “Was that a yes?”

            “No, I think my contact lens is slipping.”

            “I’ll take that as a yes. The person he is hunting, to likely kill, with the help of the FBI I might add, is the mysterious and legendary Oliver Dessy, US Army.”

            “Chief Warrant Officer Dessy was on an operation in Northern Afghanistan and got caught in an ambush. He is presumed missing in action.”

He knew that. Mary Fisher had brought him up to speed on the Dessys as they were packing up to leave. The Army had notified Penny Dessy that her husband was missing in action almost two years previous. That’s when the protectors showed up, men distantly related to the family to provide security for the widow of their hero out in the middle of nowhere all by herself. She’d said it with a hint of ridicule in her voice and he’d wondered how Mrs. Dessy had held off those thugs. The answer was Grandmother Spider, the men were afraid of her power, something she was well known for among all the families. As long as they behaved themselves, they had nothing to fear. And Penny Dessy, always a gracious woman, kept to herself, and her blanket loom, away from the men who were taking advantage of her hospitality by claiming kinship to her late husband. He wasn’t going to attribute the efficiency of the killing to either Penelope Dessy or Grandmother Spider. The men had obviously been caught by surprise. No warning. If it had been a stranger or strangers, old Gus would have raised the alarm. And he hadn’t. Poor old Gus. According to the FBI, old Gus had come out of his stupor just as the bounty hunter was rooting around in the shed. He’d managed maul the man’s thigh before Tanner shot him defending himself.

           The FBI stood at the foot of the bed wearing the complimentary white bathrobe but open in front and leaving nothing to the imagination. She smiled at his smile. “A penny for your thoughts.”

            “I was just thinking about old Gus.”

            “You’re such a romantic. And you never said anything about a dog.”

            “It slipped my mind. I think I was distracted.”

             “If it makes you feel any better, Tanner needed a hundred stitches.”  She crawled toward him across the rumpled sheets and put her chin on his chest so she could look into his eyes. “Were you thinking about anything else?”

            “As a matter of fact,” he said snagging the lanyard with her government identification hanging from the back of the chair next to the bed, “I was just looking at your ID here. . . .”

            “I hate that picture,” she said turning her head to look at it.

            “Did you know that if you used just your first initial with your name it would say ‘sex’?”

            Special Agent Sharon Eckes’ elbows dug into his chest as she got squarely in his face. “Did you know that if I had a dollar for every time some horndog told me that, I could pay off my student loan and still buy a condo on Miami Beach?”

Donovan stared at the blinking cursor at the bottom of the page. He saved the document, attached it to the email addressed to Sheriff Tim Collins and was about to hit send when he looked up to see Nelly standing in front of his desk with a big friendly grin on his face.

            “How’s it going, old man?”

            “I could complain but why be predictable. How’s the love life on planet of the Apes?”

            “You know she calls you ‘Cupid’ now.”

            “That’s gonna be a hard one to live down. I might have to retire.”

            Donovan hit send and watched the document disappear from his screen. Nothing in it said anything about his hunch as to who the killer might be. He’d done a little off the books research on his own. A few months before Dessy was reported missing in action, a drone strike in Northern Afghanistan had targeted and killed a wedding party of non-combatants. It was in an area that Chief Dessy was operating, training a local militia fighting the Taliban. Then there was the report of a top ISS official being assassinated in Karachi. Not long afterward at a clandestine CIA airfield in Pakistan numerous explosions had destroyed or disabled the drone fleet housed there. An attaché to the US Embassy was gunned down in the streets of Lahore. More recently a top Special Operations Command Colonel was found strangled in his home in North Carolina. And around the holidays, the CEO of a government contractor providing mercenaries in Afghanistan was found with his throat cut in a Denver hotel room. Although it was just a guess, the sequence of actions reeked of payback. He’d received a cryptic text from sexy Sharon a week or so past that said, “Picked up the trail in Ithaca.”  He assumed upstate New York as he wasn’t aware of any other place with that name. He also assumed that Chief Warrant Officer Oliver Dessy was armed, extremely dangerous, out for revenge, and so far had managed to elude the government gunslinger.

 

Contents Vol. I No. 4

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Four

In Issue Four of Dime Pulp, A Serial Fiction Magazine, The Last Resort continues the adventures of Lee Malone, former super model now small town newspaper reporter, and finds her rescued from The Blue Ox, a den of diehard water conservationist if there ever was one, by Blackie, having a cozy coffee with the older man while the rain rages outside and getting nostalgic over the photographic rogues gallery on the motorcycle repair shop’s walls. After a frightening nightmare in which she intuits the identity of the charred corpses, she is awakened by a summons to fly to Chicago to be by her ailing mother’s bedside where her sordid past begins to catch up with her.

For Helena Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myth series featuring Weston County Sheriff Detective Jim Donovan, a multi-casualty shooting out on the Sage Valley Rancheria has more than a few echoes in mythic lore in this first of a two part story titled “Valentine’s Day.”

A Detective Story
picks up Lackland Ask where he left off, piloting a power boat on the East River and ramming a garbage scow but not before a confrontation with arch nemesis, Kovic, and his thugs, and lands himself in the drink to be rescued by. . .well, why spoil the surprise.

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and A Detective Story, as well as another short story based on Greek myths under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myth.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Four

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant


 

TLR banner321Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her. 

The Last Resort, Chapters 1-3
The Last Resort, Chapters 4-6
The Last Resort, Chapters 7-10
The Last Resort, Chapters 11-13

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Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.  Revisited as crime fiction are the strange death of Hippolytus, the agonizing death of Heracles, the slaughter of Penelope’s suitors,  the sparagamos of Orpheus, and the cursed lineage of Pelops. Hard Boiled Myth taps into the rich vein of classical literature to frame these ancient tales in a modern context.

Long Shot I
Long Shot II
Notification Of Kin
Valentine’s Day I

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Lackland Ask is the name. ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime friction magazine. This is my story. It starts with a blonde. This kind of story always starts with a blonde. The brownstone was on the Westside and easy enough to find. So was the mug’s yellow roadster. It stuck out like a new shoe in a cobbler’s shop. I was being a sap again. I woke sitting straight up, sweat pouring out and over me, my undershirt drenched. I was going to have to change my shorts. Some dream. They worked me over, demons in dingy cable knit sweaters. They pumped my arms and peered in my face with eyes as black as eightballs.

This kind of story always starts with a blonde
“I was being a sap again.”
“Some dream”
“demons in dingy cable knit sweaters”

Valentine’s Day—1

by Helene Baron-Murdock

It was something Mary Fisher, the crime scene tech, had said. “Old Gus has got more barks than a three headed dog.”  She was right. The mastiff, part Rhodesian ridgeback by the looks, had a head the size of a backhoe shovel and bit off its yaps as regular and precise as a stamping mill. That had been five months ago. The case now belonged to the Feds, at their insistence, and was no longer the County Sheriff’s problem. Except that it was.

Jim Donovan, detective with the Weston County Sheriff’s Violent Crimes Unit, watched from the break room window as a rare June rain wet the parking lot and those scrambling to and from their cars who still couldn’t believe that it rained at this time of year. He was avoiding the paperwork that awaited him at his desk. The report was due by eight the following morning for a news conference to be held shortly thereafter.

Weston County Sheriff Tim Collins would be meeting the press to explain to the public, and the County Board of Supervisors, why there had not been any progress in the multiple execution style murders at a remote farmhouse up on the tribal lands. And that he was not part of the cover-up. The fact that his Department been shut out of the case by the FBI had been really hard to swallow. And now the blowback over the cover-up was threatening to call into question his carefully erected reputation as a straight shooter. The “lands”, as the Sage Valley Rancheria was called, sat in his jurisdiction. However, it was also a section in the northeast of the county administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and that meant that his authority was trumped by Washington. Sheriff Collins was a politician as well and he knew when to shift the blame. He hated the FBI and so was not the least averse to showing them in a bad light. Lawyers with guns, he called them.

Donovan sat in his chair and set the coffee cup on the stained notepad as the phone rang. “Donovan.”  He stared at the ceiling. The big boss. “Yeah, Tim, I’m working on it now. I have your notes right here.”  He lifted the coffee cup as if he were unveiling them. “I fit everything onto the timeline. Right up to when we were pulled off the investigation.”

He’d asked it before and he knew the answer, but he asked again anyway, reflexively, as a dig or complaint about the constraint on doing their job, however broadly that was defined. “I thought we signed a Joint Powers Agreement that gave us jurisdiction over the lands within the county. What good is it if the State or Feds can muscle us out of the way any time they want?”

Anything to get Tim going. But apparently not today. The Sheriff was focused and went over in detail once again the points he wanted emphasized.

“Jesus, Tim, think this is my first rodeo? What are you going to do when I retire?”  Donovan listened and scoffed. “Good luck with that.”  And “Are we done? I have to put the final touches to this report.”  He stared at the screen and the document page that was titled Timeline for MCI on Feb 14th Sage Valley Weston County and the blank space below it. “You’ll have it by the start of work tomorrow. Have I ever failed you?”  He took exception to the reply. “That was different.”

Hanging up, he focused on the blank screen, the pulsing cursor, again. He knew what he had to do. Fill in the blanks. Easy enough. He had his pocket notebook. Most of the younger guys used their smart phones or digital recorders. He was old school, admittedly, but writing something down was that extra step that would help trigger a chain of associations.

Shooting, possibly drug related, way out on the lands, at the far eastern end of Weston County, multiple victims, the way it was called in. The big man had wanted him out there for an overview, and to help the new guy, Nelson, who would be the lead investigator. Seemed like more and more the Department was using him to train the rookies. The brass liked to use the word ‘mentor.’  Well, he could have just as easily been driving a desk after the ‘incident’, so he had to consider himself lucky to be out in the field even if it was just hand-holding and nose-wiping.

valentinewall           He remembered the day well, Valentine’s Day. He was on a domestic violence call on the west side of Santa Lena, in an unincorporated neighborhood on High Creek Rd. A rundown two story Queen Anne knockoff in need of some TLC fronted the High Creek address. Just inside the door a shaggy white haired unshaven older gent lay in a heap at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Accident, at first glance, yet the man was naked below the waist, his pants and briefs wrapped around his ankles. That appeared to have been the cause of his fall. At the top of the stairs sat a woman in a wheelchair, close in age to the dead man. With her was a social worker from Adult Protective Services or Apes, as they were sometimes called, a young woman in her thirties with shiny caramel colored hair and a bright green overcoat. She had a pretty face, but it was marred by a frown and severe expression. She was the one who had found the body and called it in. First responders had arrived about the same time as the deputy. They’d both agreed, a coroner’s case. Something the Ape said to the deputy had made him request a detective from Violent Crimes.

The social worker, her id badge hanging from a blue lanyard around her neck displaying a none too flattering photo and her name, Shirley Holmes, explained that there had been previous incidents of domestic violence at this address. When Donovan suggested that maybe the woman had fought back this time, he was informed that the old woman, Ida Karanov, had been the instigator of the previous incidents.

He was just about to begin with some preliminary questions of the woman when Tim called to have him head out to the MCI on the lands. At the suggestion of the social worker, he arranged to have the woman taken to General and placed in one of the holding rooms at the hospital where she could be cared for by the medical staff if need be. She wasn’t going anywhere in that wheelchair.

On the forty minute drive to the Rancheria he’d had a chance to mull over the potential crime scene. Older guy, Jay Karanov, the woman’s husband, falls down a flight of stairs, about fifteen feet, breaks his neck. He has his trousers and briefs wrapped around his ankles. Well, it was Valentine’s Day, after all, maybe he got a little frisky and the old woman didn’t appreciate it. So she pushes him away. He loses his balance and takes the tumble. But why at the head of the stairs? Head at the head, he thought but dismissed it as cynical, the result of his experience over the years with the finer specimens of humanity.

mustard fields2Weston County in February was awash in yellow mustard and acacia blooms. A political compromise in the early 20th Century had created Weston County as a trapezoidal wedge between the conservatives of the Anderson County timberlands to the north, and the well to-do liberals in the agri-burbs of Tolay County to the south. Weston was a sampler of both of those ideologies and equally representative in its topography. To the West, Weston was bound by the rugged coast and the wide blue yonder of the Pacific. Consisting mostly of sparsely inhabited timberland vacation destinations and upscale enclaves notched into and around sheer granite oceanside cliffs, it stretched north to the county line as a continuation of the coastal range. The south and east of the county were taken up by arable lands, home to vineyards, orchards, and truck farms encroached on, steadily and year after year, by housing developments and the attendant paving.

Almost equidistant from the wave tumbled coast and the rolling grass and oak foothills at the Harbin County line to the east sat Santa Lena, the largest population center and the county seat. The heavily traveled north-south State four lane thoroughfare bisected the town and the main east-west artery, known as the Santa Lena Highway, cut across the northeast corner at the city limits.

At one point dispatch had requested his 10-20 and his ETA to the shooting scene. He informed the dispatcher that he’d just cleared the outskirts and was heading east on the Santa Lena Highway, figuring to arrive in about half an hour. He imagined Tim Collins listening to his answer in his office over the monitor speaker because it was his question that had prompted the radio traffic. Sometime later he’d heard the Crime Scene van check in as having arrived at the site. 

—The arrival had been acknowledged by dispatch, and he noted it on the timeline.—

The tributary road off the highway was designated by a government number and had been freshly graded down to granite hard pack. He followed it until he came upon a pale green Forest Service pickup and the Ranger in the driver’s seat who pointed him through the cattle gate and the deeply rutted dirt road beyond. His Crown Vic was just not built for that kind of terrain and he banged his head not a few times as the vehicle jolted, bounced, and balked at the rough going. Things got a little better as he approached a large two story white farmhouse and outbuildings set in among a grove of ancient valley oaks. There were a handful of patrol units and Forest Service pick-ups gathered at the entrance to the fenced-in property. He parked off to the side of the road and checked in with dispatch. Overhead the leaden slab of clouds that stretched without end to the west threatened to mist as a fine drizzle.

—The dispatch log put him there at 10 AM.—

He walked into the yard noting the battered blue Explorer and rust red lightweight pick-up astride a set of extra-large wheels parked in front of the farmhouse. Nelson strode out to meet him, explaining “We’re still waiting on the medical examiner.”  The Crime Scene van was parked off to one side and the tech had deployed the field lab from the side compartment. A large dog penned in near the outbuildings punctuated the air with its aggressive barks.

“All dead?”

“Yeah, five of them, male, non-white. We can go in as soon as the tech gives us the nod. I did a prelim walk through. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

“Bloody  mess?”

“No, that’s not it. All head shots. They never knew what hit them.”

“No witnesses?”

forensic unitNelson indicated the Crime Scene van and the elderly woman seated on the passenger’s side with the door open. “Mrs. Elma Snyder. Lives in the granny unit out back. Didn’t hear a thing. She found the bodies.”  And as an afterthought, “The tech, Fisher, knows her.”

Almost on cue, Mary Fisher, in her blue crime scene coveralls, strode up and handed them each a pair of baby blue rubber gloves and booties to match. “We can go in and do the video walk through any time you’re ready.” She nodded acknowledging Donovan and smiled self-effacingly that was the way of her people.

“You know the old woman? Who is she?”

“That’s Grandmother Snyder though everyone calls her Grandmother Spider. She’s related to just about all the families here on the lands. My great aunt’s cousin. She comes with the place. We can talk to her once you’re done inside. I don’t think she knows anything, you know, about where Penny might have got off to.”

“Penny, who is Penny?”

Penny Dessy was Oliver Dessy’s wife, and she was missing. The ranch was her home, and her husband’s, when Chief Warrant Officer Oliver Dessy wasn’t off with the Army somewhere in the world. Afghanistan, Iraq, The Horn of Africa, he’d been to them all. He was regarded a hero to the people of the lands, his decorations and tales of his exploits, though ostensibly classified, were known to all and relished with the pride of kinship. Penny, his wife was not among the carnage inside the house. That Penny Dessy was missing made her a person of interest.

Donovan walked up the steps carefully appraising what he saw, impressed by the order and cleanliness of the front porch with its well-watered potted plants, white-painted wicker chairs and bright cushions, the worn boards of the deck swept clean of yard sand or tree debris, it could have given a pin lessons in neatness. Someone had devoted a lot of time to presenting a welcoming, thoughtful approach.

Mary Fisher had related the backstory on Penny Dessy, an outsider brought home from Oliver Dessy’s tour as a combat field instructor at West Point. She was the adopted daughter of Brigadier General Otto Likhaus, a native woman from the lands of upstate New York. Her ways were different, and her forthrightness struck some of the Sage Valley residents as snooty and rude. She was a tall woman as well, and slender. Her looks attracted many of the men’s eyes and desires which further alienated the close families on the lands. They had one son, Markus, who ran a telemarketing company based in Tolay County.

glenoaksThe sitting room immediately inside the front door was just as immaculate and well cared for as the verandah. Had it not been for the bodies. The tech had placed yellow A-frame number placards by each of the corpses. Donovan stood in the middle of the room and observed the position of each of the dead men. Number one and two, caught sitting, right between the eyes, mouths still open in surprise. Number three, not quite a center shot and may have been standing by the way he had fallen over the arm of the chair. Four looked like he had a defensive wound on his right hand, but the bullet tore right through it and entered just below the right eye. Number five caught a slug just below the laryngeal prominence and then another at the hairline. The efficiency of the killing was chilling.

—Appeared to be the work of a professional he noted on the timeline—.

The on-scene deputies had searched the grounds but there was no sign of Penny.             “The only place we haven’t looked is in the shed.” Nelson pointed to the weathered outbuilding inside the enclosure guarded by the dog. “We can’t get past the dog.”  He shrugged. “Might have to shoot it.”

Mary Fisher overheard them and shook her head. “No need to do that. Old Gus has got more barks than a three headed dog, but there’s no call to kill him for being who he is and what he does. Besides, I put in a call to Woody over at Animal Control. He’s on his way. And I’ve got ID’s on the victims if you’re interested.”

She led them down to the field lab where she had placed the wallets and various photo identifications laid out to be photographed. Donovan looked over her shoulder as she pointed to each. “Number one and two, Jacob Wiley and Jason Wiley, same Harbin County addresses, probably related, brothers.”

“You know them, don’t you,” he interjected.

With a slight movement of her chin down she caught a breath. “Yes, I have heard of them. Wild, into bad things, associated with white men. They were distant cousins of the Dessy’s, too”

He understood what she was saying. “What about number three?”

“Aaron Wiley, an older cousin of these two, played high school football with Oliver Dessy. Drugs, gambling, extortion. Number four, Thomas Bull.”  She pointed to the driver license photo of a man whose head filled the square of photo. “A mean drunk. He’s my husband’s third cousin and we’ve seen his antics at family gatherings. My husband calls him a ‘wannabe badass’.”

Donavan picked up the photo id of number five. “I know this guy, Eric Badger, we had him for a gang related murder, but the witness conveniently disappeared.”

—Animal Control arrived at the scene and checked in. He noted the time on the timeline.—

toolshedWoodrow Ames, also known as Woody, was an animal behavior vet who deprecatingly called himself a glorified dog-catcher. A green County issue mesh ballcap held down the explosion of curly red hair that topped his skinny frame. And anyone one who knew Woody would agree with the assessment that he was fastidious about his uniform attire. A neat freak as the not-so polite would say. His new assistant, a young woman, retrieved the wire lasso at the end of a length of pole and he directed her to walk parallel to the fence in plain view of the large mastiff, attracting its attention. In the meantime, he retrieved a long dark case, the kind a pool shark might carry his professional cue in and extracted two long hollow tubes that he fit together to form an even longer tube. One end was fitted with a round rubber mouthpiece. He propped the blowgun on the open window of the driver’s side door of his truck, inserted the dart in the opening of the tube, and positioned himself to aim. His assistant, glancing back over her shoulder once, moved closer to the fence and the dog on the other side that had by then worked itself into a froth of rage.

The dog gave a little yelp and then tried to bite its own neck before its back legs buckled followed by its head and front paws, it’s heaving ribs slowly breathing shallower.

As soon as Woody gave the nod that it was safe to go in, they entered the shed to learn that it also served as a workshop of some kind though the saws and various other tools hung on the backboard over the bench appeared not to have been used in a while. Dust and cobwebs had taken over the corners and surfaces.

Shining his flashlight in a corner of the shed taken up by rusted farm equipment, Donovan noticed where the ground had been displaced, a mound of dirt next to an olive green wooden military footlocker. He scanned the faded black stenciling of the name O. Dessy US Army on the dust free surface. He lifted the lid. Empty, but he recognized the faint scent of gun oil.

“Somebody’s been in here, working at this bench, recently,” Nelson proclaimed as if he’d just had a Goldilocks moment. A deputy stepped into the shed. “Sheriff’s on the radio for you, Donovan.”


In Part Two: “Put Every Fingerprint Back!”

Contents Vol. I No. 3

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Three

In this third issue of Dime Pulp, The Serial Fiction Magazine, Lee Malone, former super model now small town newspaper reporter, is sent on a mission by her editor, Joyce James, to find the “Countess”. And, oh, she discovers that her neighbors are former porn stars. The Last Resort reveals tiny backwater Timberton to be more than a sleepy little town.
For Helena Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myths series featuring Weston County Sheriff Detective Jim Donovan, a vehicle accident might not be all that it seems in Notification of Kin.
In A Detective Story, Lackland Ask, bent on murderous revenge, gets in disguise and has a run in with the feds.
Patton D’Arque’s Gone Missing, a story about a couple of dangerous and grumpy old men, an ex-cop and an ex-bounty hunter, wraps up with an unexpected revelation.

Dime Pulp continues its crime spree with the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and A Detective Story, as well as another short story based on Greek myths under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myths, and the conclusion of Gone Missing.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Three.

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant

The Last Resort A Lee Malone Adventure

Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her.  A rollicking imaginative romp in the neo-pulp hard boiled genre, THE LAST RESORT is told with the succinct directness of a Hammett, the witty hyperbole and lush locales of a Chandler as well as a sly nod to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys adventures.

The Last Resort, Chapters 1-3
The Last Resort, Chapters 4-6
The Last Resort, Chapters 7-10

Hard Boiled Myths
Crime Fiction With A Classical Twist

Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.   

Long Shot I
Long Shot II
Notification Of Kin

A Detective Story

Lackland Ask is the name.  ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime friction magazine. This is my story.  It starts with a blonde.  This kind of story always starts with a blonde. The brownstone was on the Westside and easy enough to find. So was the mug’s yellow roadster. It stuck out like a new shoe in a cobbler’s shop. I was being a sap again. I woke sitting straight up, sweat pouring out and over me, my undershirt drenched. I was going to have to change my shorts. Some dream.

This kind of story always starts with a blonde
“I was being a sap again.”
“Some dream”

Gone Missing

When you think of “grumpy old men” you don’t usually think of an ex-cop and an ex-bounty hunter answering a call for help from their step-daughter “niece” to look for her mother, their ex-wife former girlfriend, who has mysteriously disappeared.

Gone Missing I
Gone Missing II

Notification Of Kin

by Helene Baron-Murdock

He let drop the keys to the sedan into the left pocket of his slacks and walked toward the flashing lights staying to the inside of the flare pattern.

“Hey, Donovan! They got you doing accident investigations now?”

He glanced in the direction of the taunt and waved a hand at Tom Baxter, the fire chief for this stretch of coast highway.  It was a perfunctory wave meaning either ‘hey, howyadoing’ or ‘don’t bother me.’  Baxter was standing by the rescue rig with a few of his volunteers framed against the wide horizon now just a creamy orange line above a placid metallic gray expanse of ocean.

Kyle Bradly, the Park Ranger, intercepted him as he approached the wreck.  “Why’s the Sheriff’s Office even getting involved in this?”

Everything west of the highway was Bradly’s jurisdiction.  What was left of the vehicle had landed on the beach just off the pavement.  The accident itself was in the Highway Patrol’s bailiwick but it was one of those incidents that everyone was going to have a hand in.

Donovan shrugged.  “It’s a CYA operation.  Considering the identity of the road burger, everyone who’s politically connected is going to want to be in on it, if for no other reason than to cover their asses.”  He stopped a short distance from the carnage, a crumpled upended vintage sports car.  “That an old Porsche?”

Bradly nodded.  “Yep, 550 Spyder, James Dean death machine.”

The Highway Patrol officer looked up from her clipboard with a severe frown.  She was young, intense, and concentrated on going by the numbers on the first fatality of her probation.

“Excuse me, you’re. . . ?”  If nothing else, Donovan looked official without trying and she was giving him the benefit of the doubt.

“Jim Donovan, Sheriff’s Office.  I’m here to help you in any way I can.”  When most people heard that line, they usually checked their backs for knives.

“It’s a traffic fatality.  I don’t need any help.”  Her dark eyes snapped resolve.

At least she was standing her ground.  It was going to be a turf tug of war.  How to look good while making the other agencies look bad.  “Being who this is makes it more than just a traffic fatality.”  Donovan dropped to his haunches and took in the length of bloodied partially clothed corpse.

“Dragged himself clean nekid,” Bradly opined.

Donovan blinked and frowned, standing up.  It was one of the worst he’d seen.  At least it was an adult.  And male.   “Tell me that’s not what I think it is.”

The Ranger and patrolman looked at where he was pointing.

“Rumor had it he was a stud, hung like a stallion.”

“I’d hate to see that thing angry.”

They both turned to look at the patrolman.  She rolled her eyes.

“This is my incident.  My accident scene.   The only reason Bradly is any way involved is because the vehicle landed in his sand box.  I don’t remember calling for a County detective.”

“Your shift commander hasn’t contacted you?   There’s to be a thorough investigation by all jurisdictional agencies involved.  T.C. Hughes has a lot of political clout and that’s his kid there with the python between his thighs.”

The patrolman’s ears reddened ever so slightly.  “I haven’t heard anything from my shift commander.”

Donovan smiled thin.  “Be that as it may, notification of kin is done by the coroner who delegates that unpleasant task to the Sheriff’s Office.”  He indicated the young deputy directing traffic.  “Ordinarily that poor bastard would be delivering the bad news.  But you’ve got a high profile casualty here and I pulled the short straw.  That ok with you?”

She nodded looking over Donovan’s shoulder and drawing her lips into an angry line.

The black and white sedan came to a stop behind them and killed the headlights.  The shift sergeant had just arrived.  He would be taking charge of the accident scene.

 

The patrolman used her hand to describe the path of the vehicle once it got airborne, indicating the bluff and rise of the highway to the south as it first turned east and then made a sharp switch back to the west before dropping in a graceful asphalt parabola to where they were standing and where the front end of the Porsche had come to a stop.

“One of the witnesses said they heard a loud noise like a pop or a thud.  Then they saw the vehicle go airborne right after the first turn.  The victim was ejected, with the vehicle dragging him across the pavement to where the forward momentum was arrested by the berm at the top of the pathway down to the beach.”

“What was it, a pop or a thud?”  The shift sergeant, a large square headed older man, was not happy to be caught up in the political quagmire.  “It can’t be both.”

The patrolman studied her notebook certain she was being harassed because she was a rookie and a woman.  “One witness stated that it sounded like a pop.  Another thought it sounded like a loud thud.  They all said that it happened so quickly they could barely comprehend what was going on until it was all over.”

The sergeant sneered.  “Comprehend?  Did they actually use that word?”  He glanced at Bradly and Donovan and smirked.  “College kids.  Book smart, brain dead.”

Even in the encroaching twilight, the patrolman’s rage, a bright red face containing anger and embarrassment, was more than evident.  “I interviewed a dozen witnesses,” she stated, her voice straining to control her emotions.  “Only three of them actually saw the vehicle flip and crash.  I have their contact information for follow-up if necessary.”

The sergeant had stopped listening to her.  “Yeah, flip and crash, pretty typical out here on the coast highway, wouldn’t you say?”  He addressed Bradly.  “This is a popular spot.  Seems to me there should have been more than just twelve witnesses.”  His smile was sadistic.

“We get a fair share of visitors considering it’s not one of the bigger stretches of sand.”  Bradly pointed out to the water’s edge.  “Locals call it Sculpture Beach because people build things out of driftwood and what have you.  Come the really high tides most of it washes out.  But they keep doing it anyway.  Actually had some pretty well known artists come down and make sculptures recently.”

Donovan pushed himself off the fender of the black and white he had been leaning against and stretched as if he were awakening from a nap.  He glanced at the motley array of driftwood constructions silhouetted against the darkening sky and sea and draped in a fine twilight mist, abstract figures arrested in mid frolic.  “Well, I’ve got work to do,” he said to no one in particular.

“Notification of kin?” the sergeant asked.  “I’ll go with you.”

Not to be left out, Bradly anted up.  “Yeah, I’ll go, too.”

Donovan shook his head.  “I’m delivering bad news, not intimidation.”

 

T.C. Hughes looked like a Greek god, approximately.   A mat of tight white curls crowned his head, a salt and pepper beard stippling his square jaw and around his liver red mouth.  The blue eyes were clear, untroubled, with no hint of sadness, pain or regret.  “Thank Tim for his discretion.  I appreciate it.”

Donovan nodded.  Tim Collins was the Sheriff, his boss.  A woman was sobbing behind the frosted glass double doors that led out to a balcony.  “Someone has already informed you of your loss, is that correct?”

“Yes, Bobby Temis, a friend of my son’s.  She saw it happen.  She felt it incumbent upon herself to inform us immediately.”

Who talked that way except people who read books and thought of themselves as characters in books.  Donovan flipped open his notebook and scanned the names he had copied from the patrolman’s report.  “Bobby?  A woman?  I don’t have her down here as a witness.”

“Perhaps she didn’t actually witness the accident.  She was there, at the beach, as part of the sculpture event they were having.  My son was on his way to meet her when. . . .”   Hughes didn’t finish, turning his head as if he were hearing the sobbing for the first time.

“How can I contact Bobby?  Temis, was it?”

Hughes smiled vaguely.  “Oh, Bobby. . .Roberta, actually.  She owns the Huntress Gallery in town, on the left after the hairpin curve just past Harbor Road.  She’s an artist.”  He said the word as if it were distasteful.

“Was she your son’s girlfriend. . . ?”  Donovan let the question hang.

It was almost a chuckle.  “No, no, nothing of the sort.  But I don’t see what this has to do with anything, detective.  My son died as a result of a tragic accident.  I appreciate that Tim personally sent one of his top men to make the official notification.  That is, I’m afraid, the end of it.”

“Of course.  Please accept my condolences and convey my sympathies to his mother.”  He was referring to the sobbing unseen female.  And he too could talk like people in books when needed.

Now it was a derisive snort.  “I’ll inform my lawyer and he will inform her lawyer.  His mother and I are not on speaking terms.”  And then following Donovan’s gaze in the direction of the sobbing, “Faye is my son’s stepmother.”

“I see.”

“Again, detective, thank you for your discretion.  Now I must go to my wife.  Please, this way.”  Hughes indicated the massive oak front door with an outstretched arm.

Donovan stared at the notebook, having flipped back a page.  “Two nights ago one of our deputies responded to this address for the report of a domestic disturbance.  Can you tell me what that was about, sir?”

Storm clouds formed above the bushy white eyebrows, the blue eyes flashing electric, angry.  “That has nothing to do with any of this!” Hughes thundered.  “You have a lot of brass bringing that up.  Collins will be hearing from me about your insensitivity and unprofessional behavior!  The door!”

Donovan finished his cigarette before getting back into the sedan.  From the circular drive that led up to the Hughes citadel, a ferrocement monstrosity set in among the gentle folds of the coastal hills, the view was of a dark ragged coast and isolated offshore sentinels against which the sullen sea spent itself as splashes of phosphorescence.  To the north, almost within view, was the accident scene.  He turned back to the mansion.  At night, with its wide sweeping wing-like roof and brightly lit windowed walls, it looked like a cruise ship from another planet.

 

He opened the folder on his desktop, found the Notification of Kin form, and entered the Coroner’s Case number which linked it to the Coroner’s Report.   The name of the deceased populated the open field.  He tabbed down to the comment field and let the cursor blink while he consulted his notebook.  A lot of the younger guys had smart phones or tiny digital recorders.  He was old school.

The phone rang.  “Donovan,” on the second ring.  “Yeah, Tim, I just now got in.  I was gonna call you. . .he didn’t waste any time. . .yeah, yeah, I know. . unhuh, Parks, Highway Patrol, they all want a piece of the action. . .ok by me. . .whatever, I understand. . .well, you know me, I like to have my t’s dotted and my i’s crossed.”  He laughed with the caller.  “Listen, Tim, I’ll have this wrapped up tomorrow, just a few things I need to follow up on. . .no, no, I know you’re not telling me how to do my job. . .yeah, it just sounds that way. . .yes, I will keep you in the loop. . .don’t I always. . yeah, I know, I’m an asshole, what’s your excuse?  Yes. . Soon as I wrap it up, you’ll be the first. . .ok, bye.”

 

“Are you interested in art, detective?”  Roberta “Bobby” Temis was lithe and sleek and sophisticated.   Her eyebrows arched up onto her wide brow like the antennae of a big butterfly, the eyes, those of a doe, large wing-like lashes, and the mouth, a double bow between which a pink tongue darted in amusement.

Donovan glanced about the gallery at the large paintings of animals with human faces and the sculptures of humans with animal heads.  “I know what I like.”

“Ah, an expert.”  She smiled.  “I would love to know what you think of my paintings.”

The paintings were rendered realistically, almost photographically.  “Got anything on velvet?”

“Your wit verges on the insolent, how quotidian!”

“I’m not here to talk about art.”  Donovan had unholstered his notebook and flipped to a page.

“Would you like to know my technique?”  She had stopped in front of a painting of a doe with the face of a sad woman.  “I capture my subjects with a camera and project their likeness onto a canvas, in this case superimposing the physiognomy of the hominid over that of the ungulate from which I can then trace their images.”

“Isn’t that cheating?”

“Art is just another word for cheating, detective.”

Donovan shrugged.  He couldn’t argue with that.   “You were friends with Apollo Hughes?”

“Yes, Pol, he hated being called Apollo.  He, Pol, lit us, the world, with his presence.  He was a bright ray, a golden ray of sunlight.”

“You were present when the accident happened?”

“Yes.”  She said it slowly, lingering on the sibilant.   “We were all to meet at the beach to celebrate the high tide and the destructions of our sculptures.”

“Wait a minute, you were celebrating the destruction of your. . . .”  Donovan hesitated.  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d spoken that word.  “. . . sculptures?”

“Of course, nothing lasts forever.  Art is a celebration of the life cycle.  As artists, we party at the creation of our work, and we party at its dissolution.”

Donovan shook his head.  He felt like he was in the middle of a vocabulary quiz.  “Did you see it happen, the accident?”

“No, I was focused on the sea.  It is always such a powerful spectacle.  And the breakers were unusually large that day.  The moon, you know, it’s full.”

“Did you hear a noise, like a pop or a thud?”

“Yes, I heard an explosion, a boom.”

“From the direction of the highway?”

“Oh, it may have echoed up the wash and against the hills, but it came from the sea.   It was a boomer.”

“A boomer?”

“Yes, when a large wave breaks close to shore it makes a thunderous noise hitting the sand.  The ancients called it the ‘bull of the sea.’  They meant Poseidon, of course.”  She pointed to the slide show on a flat screen TV mounted on the wall.  “Here are some photos of the recent sculptures we assembled.  And the artists.  And their friends.”  She froze a frame with the remote.  “And this is Pol.”  The photo was of a young, very handsome man with a long dark mane and a captivating demeanor.

“You saw him?  After the accident, I mean.  How could you be sure he was dead?”

She gave a sad smile that said she did not suffer fools gladly.  “The impact alone would have killed him.  But he was dragged behind his Porsche as well.  His hair, his beautiful long hair, caught on something. . . .”  She hesitated, taking in his full measure.   “. . .after that, death can only be merciful .”

“And you felt that you needed to notify his family.”

“I told his father.   He lives close by.  His mother is Anne Tiope, the actress.   I would assume that Terrence, Mr. Hughes, will somehow communicate the news to her.”

Donovan nodded.  He hadn’t made that connection. The mother starred on TV as an Amazon princess.  “I didn’t get the impression that Mr. Hughes was too broke up about his son’s death.”

“Terrence affects a godlike stoicism. . .it protects his inner child.”

“But the wife. . . .”

“Faye?”  Bobby gave a dismissive laugh.  “Faye D’Era is a child, a spoiled child.  And not very bright.  I don’t think she realized that her selfishness. . . .”  She pursed her lips and blinked innocence as if to indicate she has said too much already.   She drew his attention to the small wood sculpture of a man’s nude body surmounted by a horse’s head.  “Pol was my model for this piece.”

Donovan threw a sidelong glance at the statuette.  At least she had the proportions right.  He referred back to his notebook.  “Three days ago, the Sheriff’s Office received a report of a disturbance at the Hughes estate.  The deputy reported that there had been a violent argument between Mr. Hughes and his son and that it had comes to blows.   Mr. Hughes was adamant about his son remaining on the premises and demanded that the deputy arrest him.   The deputy also reports that some of the statements made by Mr. Hughes could be construed as veiled threats. The deputy concluded that the situation was mitigated by the departure of Apollo Hughes who had declined to press charges.  Do you know anything about this incident?”

Bobby nodded her head and closed her eyes briefly.  “Yes, yes, it is so tragic but so inevitable.  In the classical sense, if you know what I mean.  The situation there was a powder keg.  There was bound to be bad feelings, particularly after that nasty divorce.  And to take a wife who was younger than his own son was like putting fire to the fuse.  Faye was smitten by Pol.  And who can blame her.  He was incredibly handsome.  What most women who fell for him did not understand was that he had no interested in them.”

“You’re saying he was gay?”

“In men?  No interest at all.  He delighted in life.  He was quite evolved.  The carnal aspects of his nature were subsumed within an esthetic of being.  He cared only about fine things. Art, music, poetry.  His image.”  She smiled slightly, remembering.  “To say he was a little narcissistic would be an understatement.  He was drawn, as are most idle wealthy young men, to extremes. . .fast cars. . . sky diving. . .rock climbing. . .but to liaisons of a sexual nature, he was ambivalent.”

“Not even. . . .” Donovan had the insolent thing going for him.

“No, not at all.” The laugh said she thought him ridiculous.  “Pol and I were the best of friends, running buddies, partners in crime.  We were wild in such similar ways.”

“Too bad,” Donovan mused, “He had the equipment.”

“Crass, but true, detective.  However, he considered himself on a higher chakra than most mortals.”

“Ok, so why was that a problem?”

“Faye threw herself at him.  And she took his indifference as a rejection. The night of the blow up, Faye lied to her husband and accused Pol of trying to seduce her.”

Donovan gave an understanding nod.  He saw where it was heading.  “Father and son get into a fight.  Someone calls the cops.  Threats are made.  A couple of days later, son is killed driving vintage sports car belonging to Mr. T. C. Hughes.”  Donovan made to close his notebook.  “End of story?”

“Yes, detective, end of story.  Or end to this cycle of life and on to another.  Nothing sinister. Terrence owns a dozen sports cars and any one of them were available to Pol.  He never drove the Maserati or the Porsche or any one of them two days in a row. There’s nothing more to it than that.  We die and are reborn.  The energy never goes away.”

Donovan closed his notebook and turned to leave.  “Thanks for your time.  Sorry if I inconvenienced you.”  He stopped at a small shelf near the entrance to the gallery to look at a bronze statue of a nude woman with a stag’s head that would make a nice base for a table lamp.  Inscribed on the pedestal was the artist’s signature, R. Temis.

“Aren’t you curious as to what I told Terrence when I delivered the news of his son’s death?”

Hand on the chrome door plate, he turned to look over his shoulder.

She gave a wicked knowing smile.  “I said, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’  And don’t you for one minute doubt that he didn’t know what I meant.  I could read the guilt in those soulless blue eyes.”

Donovan sat in the sedan watching the seagulls fight the steady ocean breeze.  A fog bank like a big chunk of lead sat on the horizon.  There was a certain kind of beauty to the way the muted light settled on every mundane thing and made it somehow special.  He’d have to make the drive out to the coast on his own time one of these days.  He glanced at the glass and chrome door to the gallery pulling away.  Maybe invest in a little art.

 

Contents Vol. I No. 2

Introducing Dime Pulp Number Two

In the second issue of Dime Pulp, The Serial Fiction Magazine, The Last Resort continues with the adventures of Lee Malone, former super model now small town newspaper reporter, a regular, backwoods Brenda Starr, as she finds her first body (not counting the Airedale). The second part of Long Shot in Helena Baron-Murdock’s Hard Boiled Myths series concludes with Weston County Sheriff Detective Jim Donovan on the carpet again. A Detective Story’s Lackland Ask, after being dupped once again, this time by a not so pretty face, is bent on murderous revenge. A new talent to the writing team, “Patton D’Arque is a pseudonym if there ever was one, in real life an aspiring screenwriter who has cleverly given himself a kind of bunraku cameo in his two part story about a couple of dangerous and grumpy old men, an ex-cop and an ex-bounty hunter, looking for their former girlfriend ex-wife who has Gone Missing.

In the first issue Dime Pulp presented the initial installments in the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and A Detective Story, as well as a short story from the series of tales under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myths. As was often done in the days of yore, the writers appear under pseudonyms. “Colin Deerwood,” the author of A Detective Story, is an amateur historian who claims to have been inspired to write his period piece after contemplating the cover of an issue of Black Mask Magazine. “Helena Baron-Murdock,” under her own name is a scholar of comparative religions and myth and is the creator of Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Hard Boiled Myths short story series. The Last Resort, A Lee Malone Adventure, by poet and publisher Pat Nolan (not a pseudonym but in Nolan’s estimation, he is obscure enough not to need one) was written to upend the stereotypical image of the hard boiled crime sleuth. The Last Resort was originally published by Nualláin House, Publishers, in 2012—it is serialized here for the first time.

While the primary focus will be on crime fiction, Dime Pulp hopes to also include Western and Steam Punk anachronism, and other popular fictional fare of a speculative nature. (By now you should have skipped down to the actual contents). Dime Pulp anticipates to publish as a monthly serial fiction magazine but should the workload prove too ambitious for the editorial staff (of one), the schedule will be adjusted to post as quarterly issues.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and follow the links below to reading entertainment with the serial contents of Volume One, Number Two.

  —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant

The Last Resort A Lee Malone Adventure

Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her.  A rollicking imaginative romp in the neo-pulp hard boiled genre, THE LAST RESORT is told with the succinct directness of a Hammett, the witty hyperbole and lush locales of a Chandler as well as a sly nod to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys adventures.

The Last Resort, Chapters 1-3 The Last Resort, Chapters 4-6

Hard Boiled Myths
Crime Fiction With A Classical Twist

Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.   

Long Shot I Long Shot II

A Detective Story

Lackland Ask is the name.  ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime friction magazine. This is my story.  It starts with a blonde.  This kind of story always starts with a blonde.
The brownstone was on the Westside and easy enough to find. So was the mug’s yellow roadster. It stuck out like a new shoe in a cobbler’s shop. I was being a sap again.

This kind of story always starts with a blonde
“I was being a sap again.”

Gone Missing

When you think of “grumpy old men” you don’t usually think of an ex-cop and an ex-bounty hunter answering a call for help from their step-daughter “niece” to look for her mother, their ex-wife former girlfriend, who has mysteriously disappeared.

Gone Missing I

Contents Vol. I No. 1

Introducing Dime Pulp

What is pulp fiction, anyway? Immediately the lurid color illustrations of pulp magazines covers depicting a damsel in some sort of distress or at least dominating the picture plane and advertising an unspoken prurience come to mind. For many, the bygone era of pulp fiction was reading entertainment before movies, radio and then television replaced that particular skill.  Whatever designation anyone might want to tack on to it, pulp is a unique American prose style based on the economy of storytelling needed to fit into the word count constraints of the magazines that published them. Many of those pulp writers were also journalists skilled in succinctness and cutting to the chase. While much of the writing could be considered uncouth, déclassé, or trash, the penny-a-word hacks churned out a kind of fantastic storytelling that’s been around since practically the invention of writing (if one is to believe Mikhail Bakhtin). Crime fiction itself has an American origin, in Baltimore, from the pen of Edgar Allen Poe. The superstars of that genre, Hammett, Chandler, and Gardner, were published in the highly respected Black Mask Magazine but also in magazines like Dime Detective, and Spicy Detective.  An abundance of irony and a certain cynicism set the requisite tone. There are only bad people and less bad people and they don’t even think of themselves in that way. The modern gaze is blurred in discerning right from wrong because we inhabit the age of relativity. It’s all very dark, particularly after the war, some might even say “noir.” Crime fiction and westerns are where the tough hombres and mujeres live, lines are drawn in the sand or around corpses and someone is always on the wrong side (or so it seems). In the early pulps, those shady characters were roughly drawn, sketchy, succinct, the dialogue terse, wisecracking, the action constant.

The first issue of Dime Pulp Volume I, presents the initial installments in the serialization of two full length novels, The Last Resort and A Detective Story, as well as a short story from the series of tales under the rubric of Hard Boiled Myths. As was often done in the days of yore, the writers appear under pseudonyms. “Colin Deerwood,” the author of A Detective Story, is an amateur historian who claims to have been inspired to write his period piece after contemplating the cover of an issue of Black Mask. “Helena Baron-Murdock,” under her own name is a scholar of comparative religions and myth and is the creator of Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Hard Boiled Myths short story series. The Last Resort, A Lee Malone Adventure, by poet and publisher Pat Nolan (not a pseudonym but in Nolan’s estimation, he is obscure enough not to need one) was written to upend the stereotypical image of the hard boiled crime sleuth. The Last Resort was originally published by Nualláin House, Publishers, in 2012—it is serialized here for the first time. There are also a few more authors waiting in the wings (chaffing at the bit) to contribute to future issues. The authors are given a free hand to have fun in writing their pulp fiction because they certainly aren’t getting paid. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First things first: click the bold text below each story header and start your reading of Dime Pulp, Number One, Volume One.

                                                                          —Perry O’Dickle, chief scribe
and word accountant

The Last Resort A Lee Malone Adventure

Deep in the redwood wilds along the Corkscrew River, someone is shooting neighborhood dogs. The year is 1985 and Lee Malone, former fashion model, queen of the runways from Paris to Milan, once dubbed the most beautiful woman in the world, now a part-time reporter for The Corkscrew County Grapevine, is looking for a story to sink her teeth into. When Lee finds the owner of Kelly’s Seaside Resort brutally murdered, it leads her on an adventure that includes a mysterious gray van, another murder, extortion, pornography, sex slavery, and a shadowy organization of militant feminists known as SAPHO.  In the process, Lee Malone’s notorious past catches up with her.  A rollicking imaginative romp in the neo-pulp hard boiled genre, THE LAST RESORT is told with the succinct directness of a Hammett, the witty hyperbole and lush locales of a Chandler as well as a sly nod to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys adventures.

The Last Resort, Chapters 1-3

Hard Boiled Myths
Crime Fiction With A Classical Twist

Greek myth is rife with murder, mutilation, cannibalism, mayhem, and the ever popular incest.  Weston County Sheriff’s Detective Jim Donovan of the Violent Crimes Unit wouldn’t know a Greek myth from a Greek salad, but if he did he would find some troubling similarities to the cases he’s investigating.   

Long Shot I

A Detective Story

Lackland Ask is the name.  ‘Lack’ to my friends, ‘Don’t’ to those who think they’re funny. You might have seen my portrait on the cover of Black Mask, the crime friction magazine. This is my story.  It starts with a blonde.  This kind of story always starts with a blonde.
I was wearing my only suit, a barely stylish, casual lapel pinstripe black coat over a high vest and loosened at the neck a small knot red, blue and gold school tie.  The frayed cuff of my white shirt at my left wrist nudged the square crystal of the watch held there with an alligator hide strap. That hand rested casually half out of the pocket of the matching pinstriped trousers.  My other hand held a police special, finger on the trigger, pointed in the general direction of the sawdust and dirt floor.

This kind of story always starts with a blonde