Happy Sunday morning! I hope everyone liked the extra hour of sleep last night. I sure needed it after enjoying yesterday morning at the Red Sox parade in downtown Boston. Listening to a million+ people sing God Bless America when the rolling rally stopped at the finish line of the Boston Marathon was something to behold.
I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to finish reading a book, so I’m going to attach Chapter One of my upcoming book (the Prologue was posted last month). I promise I won’t make you all read the whole thing a week at a time, but for now, I hope you enjoy the start to The Stairwell…
Sunday, November 3rd
I wouldn’t necessarily say autumn sucks; I actually wouldn’t say that at all. It’s simply knowing what comes next that sometimes makes your hair hurt if you think about it too hard. Opting to not think about it too hard, I made a conscious effort to focus on the fabulous whipped caramel concoction sitting on the table in front of me. I’d taken the lid off the lovely creation, in order to inhale the wonderful smell and watch the steam come off the magic liquid I love.
I have a thing for coffee, specifically the deliciousness just mentioned. My morning routine involves visiting a wonderful coffee house on Boylston Street in my home city of Boston, and I’m better acquainted with some of the shop employees than some people are with their own family members. I’m way beyond the stage of having to place an order. When they see me come in, they immediately start in on my beverage; it’s that easy.
“Are you thinking about winter, Meg?”
Doobie, my neighbor and best friend, had accompanied me on my coffee run, and I looked at him with surprise.
“Doob, I swear you’re a mind reader more often than I’d like you to be. That’s exactly what I was trying to not think about. How did you know?”
He shrugged. “You’re staring outside with that glazed, faraway look, and your bottom lip is protruding like one of those aging celebrities who just had ‘em done.”
“I do not!” I protested. Planting my upper row of teeth firmly over my lower lip, I eyed Doob with curiosity. “You’re an expert on celebrity collagen implants now?”
Doob nodded. “Yes, I am,” he said with no shame. “I almost always have a television on, and I like the shows about all of those movie stars making spectacles of themselves. I’ve picked up my vast plastic surgery knowledge from their shenanigans. And it’s gross, but some of them have their work done right on television; it makes me queasy, but there’s some type of sick fascination with it, too. Someone is always getting poked or prodded or having something sucked or tucked. Fluffed or buffed. Brightened or lightened. Chiseled or drizzled. Waxed or shellacked—”
“I got it, Doob,” I said, putting my hand up.
But he persisted. “I’m not kidding; it’s high pressure for these people, Meg. They gotta bring home the bacon, and it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. You think it’s easy.” He shook his head slowly.
Fortunately, I didn’t have anything in my mouth just then because I would have spit it out with laughter. “Doob! Like you know anything about a dog-eat-dog world. That’s classic.”
“True,” he quipped. “But if I had to get by on my looks…” He framed his face with his hands, “…I’d have me a nice ‘frigerator box and shopping cart with at least two bad wheels. So I see why they do what they do. I’m just grateful I’m not under that type of pressure.”
That was the understatement of the year. Doob was a trust fund baby and originally from Iowa. When Doob was a kid, his dad had developed some type of fertilizer or pesticide that he’d sold to a huge conglomerate and had made a fortune in the process. Doob’s parents love to travel and are usually off ziplining through jungles in various parts of the world, but Doob made a home in Boston after a kind-of-semester in college, and I was glad for it. He now spends his days computer hacking and feels no remorse about it whatsoever. His claim is that he’s done more good than harm with his questionable hobby, and I can’t argue the point. He’s been a tremendous help to me with many of my cases, but I often tell him to refrain from sharing the illegal help he’s given me. Denial is one of my shortcomings. Or talents. Whichever.
As for me, I’m a private investigator. My partner, Norman Switzer, and I have been in business for a while now. Our firm has been growing at a nice, steady pace. Norman brings the knowledge, experience, and the instincts of a cop with over twenty years on the force, and I have…well, I have some guts and just enough tenacity to get me into heap-loads of shit at times. It works for us. Norman won’t readily admit that, but please, just take my word for it.
Our little business presently has two open cases. One is the unsolved murder of my fiancé from a few years back; the other is to find and bring to justice a psychopath named Melanie who changed my life last March. She kidnapped me during a nor’easter and murdered a friend of mine that same night. She would have also killed me if I hadn’t escaped, and I’ve been living with the overwhelming guilt ever since.
Melanie sent me a postcard back in July, and it was postmarked Portugal. She’s on a mission to kill her biological father who’s currently living with my uncle; they’re roommates with a group of old guys who live in a three-story over in Southie that I’ve dubbed the geriatric frat house. Their setup is a hoot, but Melanie’s wishes to bump off her father and me are far from funny. I’ve vowed to keep every hair on their gray heads safe as long as there is a breath left in me. Melanie is never far from my thoughts, and I’m confident I’ll see her again someday.
Truth be told, I actually see her all the time. I see her at the supermarket, in line for a movie, at a baseball game, at the mall, at church, literally everywhere. I’m not confessing to being crazy, mind you. I’m self-aware enough to know that I’m not actually seeing her. But somewhere deep in me, I don’t completely forget her. I can’t. Even on my best day, there’s a simmering at the core of me that is always on the lookout for Melanie. It’s like she’s attached herself to a sliver of my soul.
But for now, Doob and I are at the coffee shop for a reason that has nothing to do with Melanie. Yesterday I received a call from an old friend from high school, Jeff Geiger. He’d discovered a dead body at his new vacation home and wanted to discuss how and why it got there. It was good to hear from him, and I told him I’d gladly meet him to see if I could help.
“So how much did this dude win again?” Doob asked with a mouthful of doughnut.
“Somewhere around six million dollars,” I responded, and Doob whistled lightly.
At age thirty-one, Jeff and two other lucky people hit the Massachusetts lottery. He’d been smart with the money and hadn’t gone crazy like a lot of winners do. After he’d won, Jeff hadn’t even told anyone about his windfall for two months, and he was still working at the security firm he opened before he won the lottery. I don’t know if I’d have that type of discipline if six million dropped in my lap, so good for him.
While speaking with him yesterday, I learned the first big purchase Jeff made was to gift his parents a home in Aruba; the second was a fancy sports car; the third was his vacation home in Jamestown where the dead body happened to be when he strolled in two days ago. He sounded pretty freaked out about it, and I wondered if he’d end up selling the place.
The door to the coffee shop opened, and Jeff and I exchanged waves as he walked toward the counter and studied the menu, which was really just a huge, long blackboard with all sorts of colored chalk listing out the delicious coffees. He approached our table a few minutes later, toting the largest coffee known to man, along with a massive cinnamon roll. Doob didn’t even wait for an introduction; rather he jumped out of his chair and bee-lined for the counter. He’d homed in on the cinnamon roll the minute it entered the periphery of his nasal air, and he’d opted to go buy one for himself, rather than rip it from Jeff’s unsuspecting clutches. I hoped Doob would have the good sense to come back with two.
Jeff and I exchanged pleasantries as I got up to give him a hug, and he jerked his head in Doob’s direction.
“The computer dude?”
I smiled. “The computer dude, yes. Sorry I didn’t introduce you, but he clearly smelled your roll and lost all sense of manners. He’s like a puppy that way. Hopefully he won’t relieve himself on the floor before we leave.”
Jeff laughed. “Food first, I get it. You look great, Meagan. How are things?”
“Thanks. You do, too. I’ve been good. Work and my social life keep me busy, and my parents are both still crazy in a good way, so I can’t complain. And what about you, Mr. Lottery Winner? I’ve got to imagine your life has changed quite a bit since hitting the big bucks.”
Jeff nodded as he took a sip of his coffee. “That’s an understatement. The money is awesome, but a lot of freaks have come out of the woodwork. I get a couple of marriage proposals a week through the mail, and a whole bunch of long lost friends have managed to track me down. It’s bizarre.”
I rolled my eyes in mock sympathy. “Poor baby.”
Jeff gave me an exaggerated sigh. “I know. The tortured millionaire; it’s a burden.”
Doob reentered the picture at just that moment and plopped a heavenly smelling cinnamon roll on a paper plate in front of me. I love my neighbor. Then he held out his hand to Jeff.
“I’m Doobie, nice to meet you.” Doob was a bit awkward in most social situations but had clearly realized he’d been a little bit rude when Jeff had walked in. It was cute watching him try to make up for it by being all formal.
“Likewise,” Jeff said and shook his hand. “I’ve heard from Meagan you’re her right-hand man when it comes to private investigating.”
Doob bobbed his head from side-to-side but couldn’t respond because of a mouthful of pastry he’d instantly shoved in his mouth after releasing Jeff’s hand. Normally that wouldn’t stop him from talking, so I knew he was definitely trying to make a good impression. I also knew his good table manners might be very short-lived, so I jumped in before he could projectile something out of his mouth and across the table.
“Doob is invaluable to me, and he’s cheap labor to boot. So tell us, Jeff, what the heck happened the other day?”
Jeff blew out a big puff of air. “Just the usual dead body at the vacation home type-of-thing,” he said, trying to sound casual but not quite pulling it off.
“I understand this might be hard to talk about, but if you two are all set with eats, I’d like to hear the story from the beginning. But take your time; we’ve got all day.”
“And thank God we do, because she’ll interrupt you every five seconds,” Doob said as he swallowed another ridiculous-sized mouthful of cinnamon roll.
I balled up and threw a napkin at him while Jeff started his story.