Authors: Shelley Singer
Tags: #mystery, #San Francisco mystery, #private eye, #legal mystery, #mystery series, #contemporary fiction, #literature and fiction, #P.I. fiction, #mystery and thrillers, #kindle ebooks, #mystery thriller and suspense, #Jake Samson series, #private investigator, #Jewish fiction, #murder mysteries, #gay, #gay fiction, #lesbian, #lesbian fiction
PRAISE FOR SAMSON’S DEAL
“Jake and Rosie are worth the book. They are memorable characters who charm us with their affection. If Singer can sustain this detective tandem, she’ll be a writer worth watching. With
she joins the elite sorority of Bay Area women who’ve made their fictional debut with novels that overtly pay homage and subtly parody the conventions of the mystery story.”
San Francisco Chronicle
The Bay Area is an incredibly popular home for fictional detectives and affable Jake Samson is a welcome addition to the fraternity. The Berkeley detective makes his debut in
. Singer has created an appealing, believable detective in the easygoing Jake. The author’s grasp of the Berkeley-Oakland milieu is convincing and fully flavored.
New Orleans, La.
Copyright 1983 by Shelley Singer
Cover by Andy Brown
Originally published by St. Martin’s Press
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First booksBnimble Publishing electronic publication: April, 2013
eBook editions by eBooks by Barb for
The directions I’d taken over the telephone helped me to find Chandler Hall without too much difficulty. The man had described the Berkeley campus building as modern, and so it was. It looked like a low-cost housing project. What he hadn’t mentioned, though, was the most obvious feature: half a dozen pickets standing around outside the door in the bright October sunlight.
Three of the neatly barbered young people carried neatly lettered signs, two of which seemed to be generalized indictments of the political science department housed within. One said,
DOWN WITH LEFT-WING PROPAGANDA
, and the other said,
TEACH THE TRUTH ABOUT LIBERAL UN-AMERICANISM
. The third was more personal. It said,
JOHN HARLEY IS A RED
Harley was the man who had called me and said he needed my help. He’d refused to tell me on the phone what kind of help he needed. I hoped he didn’t expect me to pad my shoulders and accompany him in and out of Chandler Hall every day, making nasty faces at a bunch of kids.
I accepted one of the leaflets they were waving at passersby, pushed open the door to the building and started up the stairs to the second floor. .
The call from Harley had come a couple of hours before. It had caught me doing what I seemed to be doing a lot of lately, which was very little. I’d been lying on my lounge chair in my colorful, lush, messy, impossible-to-maintain backyard, wondering why the squirrels had planted a walnut tree six inches from my foundation, wondering why I hadn’t either euthanized it or moved it when it was weed-sized, and wondering whether I was going to try transplanting the now four-foot-high tree or sell the house in five years. And wondering why the hell I was occupying my formerly keen mind with this trivial problem.
A year ago, I realized, I wouldn’t have thought twice about having nothing much to think about. At thirty-seven, I had retired from the world of combat. I’d done a lot of things in my life, and I’d had it with just about everything I’d ever done. Adding up a small cushion of savings, a small income from a trust fund my mother had set up for me, and a little bit of rental property, 1 decided that, with a lot of economizing, I could afford to live the life of an urban gentleman farmer.
Until I closed the savings account or got bored, or both. That had been the plan. That was still the plan.
There was still some money in the account, but for some reason, when this guy Harley called and said he wanted to talk to me about a job, and that his friend Rebecca Lilly—his accent on the word
was slightly coy—had told him I sometimes handled “discreet matters,” I got interested. The guy sounded like a jerk, but maybe I was tired of walnut trees. Or maybe it was the mention of Rebecca that did it. She might have had lousy taste in men, but she was a bright and beautiful woman. There was a time when I’d thought we might get something going. We’d had a couple of dinners, talked about ourselves, and—nothing. Like I said, she had lousy taste in men.
I didn’t know what Harley meant by “discreet matters,” so I asked him. He, in turn, asked me to visit him at his office to discuss it. Right away. I said I’d come, but I took my time. An old policy of mine. I’ve learned that if money’s involved, it’s never a good idea to be too accommodating. People might hire a hungry man, but they won’t think he’s worth much.
So there I was.
And there, milling around on the second floor of Chandler Hall, were half a dozen more pickets. To forestall any silly conversation, I smiled cheerfully at them and waved the leaflet I’d gotten from their comrades out in front. They didn’t smile back. I knocked on Harley’s door.
“Who is it?” The voice was high-pitched, exasperated.
“Jake Samson,” I told the door.
The door opened. I slid through the eighteen-inch space with some difficulty and the door closed again.
“Look,” I began, “I’m not really too interested in bodyguard work. I’m not very tough—”
He mumbled, “No, no, no,” collapsed in a chair behind the desk and waved vaguely at another, which I took as an invitation to sit down. He didn’t look good. It was hard to tell if he ever did.
He had what are called regular features: a straight nose, lips neither prissy nor especially sensual, gray eyes neither piglike nor protruding. He was very pale and his light brown hair, streaked sparsely with gray, hung lankly over his forehead. He looked clammy. He looked like he’d been throwing up.
I wondered briefly how Rebecca could prefer a flimsy specimen like this to me. I have been told that my mouth is wide and sexy, my green eyes piercing, my large broken nose masculine, my blond hair, my freckles, my sturdy five-foot-ten frame—but that was in another country, and alas…
“What’s that you’ve got in your hand?” he snapped at me.
I glanced down at the piece of paper the pickets downstairs had handed me. “Flyer. Something about a corps.”
“Corps,” he snarled. “That’s what they are.” He pointed at the door. I could hear them out there, walking back and forth and talking among themselves. “Campus Organization for the Return of Political Sanity,
. Pompous little bastards.” The sounds in the hallway changed. A new and authoritative voice had been added, and all the feet began to move away from Harley’s door. Harley jumped up from his desk, strode to the door, hesitated, and opened it just enough to peek outside. He nodded once, decisively, came back and sat down again.
“Campus security,” he said. “And about time, too. I called them half an hour ago. Now maybe we can get down to it.”
“Right,” I said enthusiastically.
“I called you about my wife, of course.”
I looked blank. He stared at me.
“You didn’t hear?” He was incredulous. “It was in the papers, on TV—”
I interrupted him. “I didn’t.”
Urban gentlemen farmers often do not read newspapers or watch TV news for weeks at a time. I never seem to miss anything. “Suppose you tell me the whole story right now.” I pulled out a small pocket notebook and, pen poised, waited for him to begin.
He snapped at me again, like a testy Pomeranian. “If I knew the whole story I wouldn’t be hiring you to investigate for me.” He wasn’t hiring me yet, but I let that pass.
“Then tell me,” I said, slowly and with astounding patience, “what you do know.”
A cheer rose from the gang of picketers clustered outside the building. Just about enough time, I guessed, for the advance guard from the second floor to have returned as heroes from the political science fortress.
Harley glanced at the window, sighed, frowned, and picked up a pen from atop a folder of papers on his desk. He tapped the pen on the folder as though he wished he were working on the papers. “It’s incredible they’d be out there hounding me today. My wife. Margaret. She died yesterday.” There was that little trick of his again, accenting the loaded word. This time, the word was
“Died?” I repeated. The demonstrators had begun a chant: “John Harley is a red.”
“I’m not, you know,” the man spat at me. “A communist. I’m not even a socialist. I’m closer to anarchist than anything else.”
, I thought. I could tell by the structure of our conversation.
I steered him back to the subject of his wife. He had gone home from his office the previous morning to find her dead, lying on the hillside below their deck. He had called the police. The police didn’t seem to think the death was an accident.
“What did she die of?” I asked.
“She fell off the deck.”
“Okay,” I said, maintaining a professional calm. “But I mean what did the fall do to her? How did she die?”
“Oh.” His voice dropped, but I heard him say, “Her neck. It was broken.”
“And the police are investigating.”
“Yes. It’s been quite an ordeal.” I wanted him to go on with his story, so I didn’t mention that the situation probably hadn’t been pleasant for his wife either. The
people were still chanting, and even though they’d switched to insulting the political science department as a whole, Harley was having trouble ignoring them. I took a stab at looking sympathetic, and he was encouraged to go on.
“There was the first cop, and he sniffed around and asked me a lot of questions. Then he called in his superiors, first one and then two more, and they all asked me questions and wrote down everything I said. And then of course there was someone with a camera photographing everything and looking for fingerprints and I can’t imagine what else.”
Nothing unusual there. The beat cop had decided things looked fishy and had gotten his district sergeant out to have a look. He in turn has made the decision to call for a homicide team and a technician. The system had not been designed to annoy Harley, but I was sure I would never convince him of that.
“So they’re checking out the possibility of a killer. What do you want with me?”
“I want you to find out who did it.”
I shook my head. “That’s police business.”
“I’ll pay you ten thousand dollars.”
I nodded thoughtfully and gazed around the office, giving myself a little time to catch my breath.
“Plus expenses,” I said.
The question was, did I really want to do it? Maybe, after all, I wasn’t sure I could.
One thing was sure. I wasn’t going to get a coherent story out of Harley as long as he was being constantly distracted by an anti-Harley political demonstration. I decided to take my preinvestigation investigation a step further and check out the scene of the crime. My prospective client agreed to meet me at his house.
“Half an hour?” he asked, standing and beginning to pack the folder he’d been tapping and a couple of books into his briefcase.
I shook my head and told him I couldn’t make it in less than an hour, that I had things to do. For one thing, I wanted to think. For another, I hadn’t had lunch. He sighed and led the way to the door, stepping back to let me go out first. I suspected him of leaving with me because he was nervous about leaving alone. But the group outside didn’t give him any trouble. They gave him, and me, an icy silence. Harley glared at them. I nodded and smiled, but they still didn’t believe me. I guess it’s something about my attitude.
We parted just out of earshot of the demonstrators. Harley said that since the
picketing had started, he always parked on the other side of the campus and was careful that no one he recognized as belonging to
ever saw him getting into his car.