Jimmy’s Nephew: Highly Recommended

Another 5-star review of “Jimmy’s Nephew,” the latest installment in my Rick Crane Noir series from Stay Thirsty Publishing.

“Mark Yost tackled a very controversial and sensitive subject. I was a little on edge with the subject matter but could not put the book down. Highly recommended.”

Here’s what another reader wrote:

“A double thumbs up for Mark Yost’s second book in the Rick Crane series, Jimmy’s Nephew. Yost is at his best in the upstate NY detective thriller. If you liked Cooper’s Daughter you’ll love Jimmy’s Nephew!”

If you haven’t picked up a copy, here’s the jacket blurb:

When mob boss Jimmy Ricchiati’s nephew, the up-and-coming middleweight boxer – Joey “Boom Boom” Bonadeo – winds up dead along with several local priests, Rick Crane is called into action. Set in Upstate New York, the second book in the Rick Crane Series is filled with the twists and turns that fans of author Mark Yost have come to expect as his private investigator hero looks under the hood of the Catholic Church and uncovers its decades of misdeeds and cover-ups as he searches to discover who killed Jimmy’s nephew in this non-stop noir thriller.

Get your copy of “Jimmy’s Nephew” today.

The Sequel to Jimmy’s Nephew

I always get nervous whenever things are going too well. And for the past six months, my life couldn’t have been better.

Those are the opening lines of book 3 (as yet untitled) in the Rick Crane Noir series, which I started writing yesterday. Hoping to have it done and available from my publisher, Stay Thirsty, by early 2015.

In the meantime, swing over and pick up your copy of “Jimmy’s Nephew,” book 2 in the series that follows Upstate New York gumshoe Rick Crane as he investigates the murders of three priests, and the killing of an up-and-coming boxer, Joey “Boom Boom” Bonadeo.

Are the crimes related?

Pick up your copy today and find out.

Meanwhile, here are snippets from two of the most recent 5-star reveiws of “Jimmy’s Nephew”:

The swift pace set by author Yost makes it tough to put down. So, grab a jigger or six of sipping whiskey and visit your pal, Rick Crane, and if you know what’s good for you don’t come out ’til the spring thaw.

Yost is at his best in the upstate NY detective thriller. If you liked Cooper’s Daughter you’ll love Jimmy’s Nephew.

Free One-Day Giveaway of “Jimmy’s Nephew”

Head on over to Amazon today, Sunday, Nov. 16, for a free, one-day giveaway of my exciting new noir thriller, “Jimmy’s Nephew.”

Here’s the jacket copy for the book, which is flying off the e-shelves.

When mob boss Jimmy Ricchiati’s nephew, the up-and-coming middleweight boxer – Joey “Boom Boom” Bonadeo – winds up dead along with several local priests, Rick Crane is called into action. Set in Upstate New York, the second book in the Rick Crane Series is filled with the twists and turns that fans of author Mark Yost have come to expect as his private investigator hero looks under the hood of the Catholic Church and uncovers its decades of misdeeds and cover-ups as he searches to discover who killed Jimmy’s nephew in this non-stop noir thriller.

And here’s the latest 5-star review of the book, the second in my Rick Crane Noir series from Stay Thirsty Publishing.

A double thumbs up for Mark Yost’s second book in the Rick Crane series, Jimmy’s Nephew. Yost is at his best in the upstate NY detective thriller. If you liked Cooper’s Daughter you’ll love Jimmy’s Nephew.

Again, this is a one-day promotion, so get your copy today.

Jimmy’s Nephew: ‘Yost at His Best’

That’s the word from the latest review of “Jimmy’s Nephew.”

A double thumbs up for Mark Yost’s second book in the Rick Crane series, Jimmy’s Nephew. Yost is at his best in the upstate NY detective thriller. If you liked Cooper’s Daughter you’ll love Jimmy’s Nephew.

That’s the second 5-star review of my Upstate New York noir thriller featuring conflicted private eye Rick Crane, whom one reviewer described as a cross between Sam Spade and Jim Rockford.

Rick had plenty of hard edges in “Cooper’s Daughter,” but this time around he’s really gone off into the dark corners of boxing and dead priests. The swift pace set by author Yost makes it tough to put down.

“Jimmy’s Nephew” is the second book in the series from Stay Thirsty Publishing. The first book, “Cooper’s Daughter,” received more than 20 5-star reviews.

Old Gray Lady Tells Jack Shepherd, Rick Crane and Sam Spade: “You’re Fired”

Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain are rolling in their graves. As for Jake Needham and I, well…we’re merely rolling our eyes.

Needham, as many of you know, is the prolific author of the critically acclaimed Jack Shepherd thrillers (and others) set in Asia. To quote the Singapore Straits Times: “Needham’s provocative views about Asian culture jump at you from almost every page. The gritty and taut KILLING PLATO is 100% unadulterated attitude.”

As for me, I’m the author of the almost-as-critically acclaimed (but not quite) Rick Crane Noir series from Stay Thirsty Publishing.

Imagine the looks on our faces this morning – and hundreds of other authors who have made a decent living telling readers about the bars, alleys and cases involving the private eyes they’ve created – when we opened up the New York Times and read “The Death of the Private Eye,” a feature in this week’s New York Times Magazine.

Imagine, for a second, a modern private-detective movie. A weeping wife is seated in the smoky, wood-paneled office of Skip Tracer, private investigator and overwrought cliché. She suspects her husband is having an affair and wants Skip to tail him. He agrees, shakes on it, then cruises hubby’s Facebook profile to find that – quite by accident, being both a rookie adulterer and lousy with is iPhone settings – he has publicly announced his presence at one of those by-the-hour joints, right around the corner. Skip escorts his client to the precise latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates, where she catches her soon-to-be-ex in flagrante delicto. Case closed.

The Times couldn’t be more wrong (as if that’s news). Yes, modern-day private eyes use modern-day technology, but only out of necessity, not out of character. As any author worth his digital publishing rights knows, these characters are not your next door neighbor. They’re the guy your mother warned you about, the guy who was always in the principal’s office, now inhabiting an underworld – wholly created by these authors – that few ever see. That’s what keeps them coming back for more.

This netherworld is definitely out there, detailed for all to see in a genre that continues to flourish, fueled by a slew of excellent, noirish private-eye stories and novellas. They tell the stories of guys like Hank Thompson, the protagonist in Charlie Huston’s excellent “Caught Stealing” trilogy set in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn; Jack Shepherd and Inspector Samuel Tay, unique and compelling characters in Jake Needhams books; and Rick Crane, my rakish private eye who lives in the underbelly of economically depressed Upstate New York, a land that time has almost forgotten that’s filled with mob bosses, fast broads, fast cars, and crimes of passion, and greed and human emotions as old as Cain and Abel.

And, contrary to the false scenario set up by the Times, some of these guys still do it the old-fashioned way, as told at the start of “Cooper’s Daughter,” the first book in my Rick Crane Noir series:

I’ve often wondered what people think when they drive by the Marshall Manor Motel.

It’s the last place you’d see on the cover of one of those slick brochures that try to sell Park Avenue doctors and lawyers on the idea of a summer house in the Finger Lakes. It sits back on a lonely stretch of route 14, between Watkins Glen and Horseheads, with its peeling paint, flickering neon sign, and a dilapidated chain-link fence around a half-filled swimming pool that, even on a dark winter night, you know hasn’t been cleaned since Carter was president.

Marshall Manor is part of the Upstate New York of long-forgotten places like Elmira, Corning and Bath. Exits on a highway where no one gets off because the decay is too palpable, even if you’re just stopping for gas.

Tonight was the third night I was getting a cramp in my thigh from sitting across the road made wet by the melting snowbanks that line the shoulders of the roads up here from November to April. My car, a black 1987 Buick Grand National, was nudged up against a line of bushy pine trees. Small clumps of snow still clung to the lower branches, making them look like Christmas trees that had been only half-decorated with tinsel. The strip mall has a tanning salon, a second-hand consignment shop, and a convenience store that probably makes the worst coffee in Chemung County.

“I’d much rather be getting a cramp on a barstool at the Woodhouse, nursing a beer between shots of Jim Beam,” I thought to myself. Instead, here I was, sitting in my car on a lonely stretch of road on a cold February night. But then I reminded myself that I was being paid to sit here and watch what went on at Marshall Manor. Who came and went with whom and how long they stayed.

Of course, I already knew what went on in places like Marshall Manor, the Wishing Well, and the Starlight. No-tell motels where bored women married to what they imagined to be even more-boring men came to try and find what they’ve lost (or maybe never had) in their marriages. Women like Amy McCarthy, wife of Bob McCarthy, senior vice president of whatever at Corning Inc.

And I suspect few readers, on their daily commute to their workaday job, stopping at Starbucks for their extra-skinny, super whipped, 165-degree mochachino, imagine this taking place at the local precinct, the opening lines to my newest Rick Crane Noir, “Jimmy’s Nephew”:

Working a guy over – especially if you’re a cop – is pretty much a lost art.

You wanna deliver shots that hurt, but don’t leave too many marks. Well-placed punches that get your point across. So far, Lt. Sean Swift of the Ontario County Homicide Squad was doing just fine.

“Come on, Rick,” said Sergeant Mike Crocker. “My partner’s having too much fun with this.”

I tried to catch my breath and forget the pain racking my body. But not far away was Lt. Swift, pacing the 10-by-12 cinderblock room with the two-way mirror, intercom on the wall near the door, and video camera tucked up in the corner. His deliberate steps and sideways glance made it clear to me that he wasn’t done.

Not by a long shot.

“You’ve been around long enough to know how this works, Rick,” Crocker said across the gray-metal interrogation table that separated us. “Tell us what we want to know and we can all go home.”

“Except for you, scumbag,” Swift said with a sneer “You’re gonna go to Attica and be some gorilla’s girlfriend for the rest of your short, miserable life.”

I looked down at the olive-green metal trashcan in the far corner and laughed out of the corner of my mouth. Before I could look up again, Lt. Swift had crossed the six feet separating us and delivered a hard right across my jaw. For a few seconds, I thought I might pass out.

“That one’s gonna leave a mark, Swifty,” I said after shaking off the punch. “Too bad. Up until now, your technique’s been pretty good.”

I didn’t know if his friends called him “Swifty,” but what else would you call a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, freckled Irish cop named Sean Swift?

“I told you guys,” I said, giving Swifty a look back that told him he hadn’t broken me.  “You got this all wrong.”

It was a line they’d heard a thousand times. But they weren’t buying it. Not tonight.

Besides, I wasn’t some run-of-the-mill perp they’d picked up from a bar fight, or a DWI they’d nabbed driving home from the local Kiwanis Club. I was the lead suspect in the biggest case these two would ever see.

The murder of a priest.

And not just any priest.

The bishop of the Diocese of Rochester, one of the biggest Catholic communities in Upstate New York.

And right now, the best suspect they had was me.

Rick Crane.

Local private investigator with shady connections to Jimmy Ricchiati, one of Upstate New York’s biggest mob bosses.

Whether I did it or not, they were gonna make this one stick. 

“Yeah…” Swifty said, leaning over to remind me who was in charge. “How do we have it all wrong?”

I wasn’t going to tell them.

Not now.

Not without my lawyer.

But they did have the wrong man.

Whatever that means these days.

So let the Times proclaim that the golden-age of the private eye is dead. Given its dwindling readership, I doubt Jake Needham is lying awake at night, wondering what the story will do to his readership. I think it’s safe to say, he’ll be just fine.

And so will the rest of us who like a good crime scene, three fingers of Scotch, and women who were built for sin.

5-Star Review for ‘Jimmy’s Nephew’

The accolades continue to pile up for “Jimmy’s Nephew,” the second book in my Rick Crane Noir series set in Upstate New York.

Having fallen into the snowdrifts and dive bars of Upstate New York by reading the first Rick Crane noir novel, I got to give “Jimmy’s Nephew” another enthusiastic thumb’s-up. Rick had plenty of hard edges in “Cooper’s Daughter,” but this time around he’s really gone off into the dark corners of boxing and dead priests. The swift pace set by author Yost makes it tough to put down.

If that doesn’t hook you, here’s the jacket copy from my publisher, Stay Thirsty:

When mob boss Jimmy Ricchiati’s nephew, the up-and-coming middleweight boxer – Joey “Boom Boom” Bonadeo – winds up dead along with several local priests, Rick Crane is called into action. Set in Upstate New York, the second book in the Rick Crane Series is filled with the twists and turns that fans of author Mark Yost have come to expect as his private investigator hero looks under the hood of the Catholic Church and uncovers its decades of misdeeds and cover-ups as he searches to discover who killed Jimmy’s nephew in this non-stop noir thriller.

The Great Galveston Art Caper

Mark Yost, author of "Cooper's Daughter."

Mark Yost, author of “Cooper’s Daughter.”

A lot of you have been following my Eddie Montrose detective series in Galveston Monthly.

The third and final installment in the serial ran in the November edition. If you’re not on the Texas Gulf Coast, here’s the whole caper, which has garnered a huge following in the magazine’s readership. One reader who was there for a few weeks and saw the first two editions even called the magazine offices and insisted they email him the conclusion.

Here it is:

The Great Galveston Island Art Caper:

An Eddie Montrose Mystery

By Mark Yost

Tuesday, Aug. 12

11:30 a.m.

I’d been coming to Murphy’s Irish Pub, just off the Strand, for about a year.

I like it because it’s mostly a locals’ hang out.

Sure, you get a handful of tourists on the weekend, but they’re the kind of tourists you can tolerate. The kind that walk past the t-shirt shops and fudge stores and fancy boutiques, look at a place like Murphy’s, and say, “Let’s go in here.”

I also liked to come here because they have trivia on Monday nights. I like to work my brain, as well as my elbow, when I drink.

But this was the first time I’ve come here and there’s been crime scene tape strung across the front.

Cop cars? Yes.

But never crime scene tape.

“What’s going on?” I asked Dave, one of the day bartenders.

“They found Phil, dead out back.”

It took my brain a second to catch up.

“You mean homeless Phil?”

“Yeah,” Dave said. “Who’d wanna kill him?”

Good question. I recognized one of the cops working the scene.

“What’s up, Joe?”

“Homicide, Montrose,” he said. “Right up your alley.”

“Yeah, especially since the vic was found in an alley.”

“Good point,” he said, immediately recognizing my cop’s humor.

“Problem here, Sarge?” one of the other cops asked.

“No, Rodriguez” Joe said, more annoyed than grateful that a rookie would be asking if he needed help.

“Let me introduce you to Eddie Montrose,” Joe said by way of introduction. “HPD Homicide.”

Retired HPD Homicide,” I quickly interjected as I stuck out my hand. “Live here now.”

“He thinks he’s an islander,” Joe said. “It told him he doesn’t have enough time in grade yet.”

“How long you been here…umm…umm,” Rodriguez struggled with my rank.

“Lieutenant,” I said. “But you can just call me Eddie. And I’ve been here about 18 months, but I used to come down here whenever I could. It used to be my getaway from the city. Now it’s my home.”

“Montrose thinks that because he doesn’t like leaving the island, it makes him a local,” Joe said.

It was true. I’d heard people talk about it when I lived and worked in Houston. The fact that year-round residents don’t like to leave the island…for anything. Before, I thought it was just an interesting quirk. But the more I lived here, the more I understood it.

There was something about crossing the causeway. I’d felt it somewhat when I’d come down here for long weekends when I was still living and working in Houston.

My blood pressure would drop.

I wouldn’t drive as fast.

I’d roll down the windows in the car even if it was 50, which to islanders is like -10 to people in Chicago and Minneapolis.

Now, I hated leaving the island. And in my book, that made me an islander. I don’t care what Joe said.

I’d retired after 30 years on the force, having worked some of the worst neighborhoods in Houston. When I was younger, one of the older detectives who broke me in warned me about homicide.

“There’s things you’ll see that you can’t unseen,” he said.

But what did I know. I was 25, just out of the academy and a few years out of the Marines. I thought I knew it all. Twenty-five years later, I realized I didn’t. But I had no regrets.

Well…maybe one. Like a lot of cops, I was divorced. Spent too many nights away from home and wasn’t really there when I was. I didn’t blame Michelle for leaving. But the trouble was, I still loved her.

I have one son. Trumpet player in one of the bars on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Not sure what he’s going to do with the rest of his life. I don’t think he knows either. But he doesn’t ask me for money – anymore – so it’s just fine with me.

Other than that, it’s just me.

To keep myself busy, I bought a little fixer upper near Postoffice and 10th. Just far enough away from the beach to keep the tourists from asking me where to eat and the local kids from pissing in my rose bushes.

The house was actually a double shotgun. I renovated the side I didn’t plan to live in myself first and rented it to a nice, young girl from Austin who was studying nuclear medicine at the medical center. That was the other benefit to this location. I knew I could rent the other side of the house to people like her instead of the beach kids.

You know the kind.

Move down here after dropping out of school. Work just enough to keep themselves in beer and weed. Always behind on the rent.

No thanks.

“So, what do you know so far?”

“Can’t get it out of your blood, huh?” Joe said, ignoring my question.

“Something like that.”

“Not much,” Joe said. “One of the hotel shuttle van drivers found him early this morning. Was going into work and saw something in the alley. When he realized what it was, he called 9-1-1. The forensics guys just got here. For what, I don’t know.”

“What do you mean?”

“Come on, Eddie,” he said, calling me by my first name for the first time. “We’re gonna spend like 10 minutes on this and it’s going to go into the unsolved file, where it’ll stay until Kingdom Come. Nobody gave a hoot about this guy when he was alive, and nobody’s gonna care now that he’s dead.”

I hated to admit it, but Joe was right. Even when it comes to solving crimes, money buys results. If this had been one of the wealthy oil and gas execs who’d retired here, or one of the art gallery owners, Galveston P.D. would be all over this. But a homeless guy? He’ll get toe tagged, there’ll be a quick autopsy, and then the city and county will fight over who pays to cremate him. Sad, but true.

Joe could see that my wheels were turning.

“What?” he asked. “You gonna come out of retirement for this? You gonna put your shield back on for Phil?”

“Nah,” I said.

But in my head, I was really saying “Maybe…”

The only thing I was sure of was the fact that I wasn’t getting a drink at Murphy’s. Not today.

So I got in my truck – a beat-up Chevy S-10 I’d picked up used and gotten into shape – and headed over to the Gumbo Diner on the Seawall for a Seafood Po Boy and a cup of gumbo. After that, I swung by the house, checked the mail, slipped into a pair of ratty shorts and my beach shoes.

(Unlike the tourists, who ruin their regular shoes on the beach because the car is overloaded with other crap they don’t need, we islanders have shoes we just wear on the beach. I should have added that into my argument to Joe that I’m an islander. “I got beach shoes.” Maybe that would have convinced him.)

Then I grabbed my fishing pole and hopped on my beach cruiser. I pretty much only use it to go fishing, so I have my small tackle box with my shore lures and rigs strapped onto the back with a few bungee cords. I rode up to Seawall, out past Apffel Park to the South Jetty. I wanted to clear my head and think about this case. And there was only one place to do that. Besides, the winds had shifted and I heard that the redfish and sheepshead are running.

After two hours of catching about all the fish I could eat in the next week or so, I decided, “What the hell. What else do I have to do?”


Wednesday, Aug. 13

10:00 a.m.

After fixing breakfast at home and taking care of a few things around the house, I went back down to the Strand and started to ask around about Phil. A good place to start was the House of Spirits, a dive bar at the south end of the Strand that was even too rough for the bikers that came in on the weekends. But this time of the morning, most of the regulars were still fairly sober.

When I walked in, there were just two scruffy-looking guys sitting at the bar. About average for the clientele in this place.

I recognized them as part of the regular panhandlers around town. Some days they’d work the Strand, other days they’d work the Seawall. Most people who saw them on the street – myself included – would probably guess that they were homeless. But for all I knew, they may have owned one of the old mansions on Broadway.

Like most people, I’ve always wondered about these guys (and girls). One of the beat cops in my old station house told me that if they hustle, they can make $200 a day, tax-free. That’s $4,000 a month, working five days a week. Not bad. Especially if you and three of your buddies are living together and pooling your money. Then again, maybe they weren’t that ambitious. Maybe they begged for just what they needed and spent most nights sleeping on the beach or behind a dumpster somewhere.

“What do you want, cop?” one of them said shortly after I walked in and ordered a draft.

“It’s that obvious, huh?” I asked with a laugh. “I’m actually retired. Houston P.D. Live down here now.”

“And…??” the other one asked.

“And what can you tell me about Phil?”

“Crazy Phil?”

“Is that what some people called him?”

“Yeah,” the first drunk said. “Those that crossed him.”

“What about you two? You ever cross him?”

“We don’t want no trouble,” the other one said. “Just trying to scratch out a living here in paradise.”

“Good luck…” I said as I knocked back the rest of my beer and walked out.

They clearly weren’t going to be any help. In fact, most people either didn’t want to get involved or had nothing to say. That’s how it went most of the rest of the morning as I made my way up the Strand, stopping into the shops to ask the locals what they knew about a guy that everyone knew, but no one seemed to care about.

I got my first break in the case in the alley behind the Lunchbox Café. One of the bus boys, Miguel, was out back emptying the garbage.

“Sure, I know Phil,” he said.

“What can you tell me about him?”

“He was one of the quiet ones,” Miguel said, speaking about Phil in the past tense.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, a lot of times when I come out here they’re waiting to sift through the garbage.  Phil was never like that.”

“Hmm…” I said. “I’ve heard from a few people he had a temper.”

“Yeah…” Miguel said. “When they hassled him. Otherwise, he was pretty chill.”

“Did you remember anyone in particular hassling him?”

“No, not really. It’s busy here, especially in the summer. I come out, dump the trash and go back inside.”

“Thanks, Miguel.”

I walked back down the alley and back out onto the Strand. I had a few other places to check when Miguel saw me walk by the front of the Lunchbox.

“Senor,” he said, calling to me from the front of the café. “I just thought of something. You should go speak to Sister Martha Marie, over at the food pantry. I remember Phil telling me that she was the only person who was ever nice to him.”

“Thanks, Miguel,” I said. “I’ll do that.”


Thursday, Aug. 14

6 p.m.

I left the Strand and drove over to the food pantry behind Holy Family. It was closed, but a guy mowing the lawn told me they opened at six every night.

So I went home, made some lunch, then hopped in my truck and drove down the coast road to Surfside. Technically, it’s off the island, but I like going there anyway.

Surfside Beach is a little town about 20 miles west of Galveston. Mostly just beach shacks and dive bars. Sometimes I go a little further down the coast, across the inlet, and fish in Quintana. It’s even more rundown and remote than Surfside. Mainly because there’s some sort of petrochemical processing plant just inland from the beach. But I’ve never glowed in the dark and the fish sometimes run better over there than they do at Surfside.

Also, you can drive on the beach over in Quintana. I have a favorite spot I like to go to, park on the beach, set up my chair, break out a cooler full of beer, and just listen to the waves.

About 7 every night, I pull out my little portable radio and listen to the Astros games – even if they are mostly losing. My son makes fun of my beat-up radio. Tells me I should get an iPod. Clearly he doesn’t get it.

I packed up in the sixth inning. The Astros were winning 4-1. I stopped to wet my whistle at Sharkies and watch the last three innings on TV.

I was on my third bourbon when I heard a commotion in the back. I walked past the pool table and the hallway that leads to the bathrooms and stepped into the doorway to the patio deck that most no one knows about unless they come here regularly. One of the girls I’d half noticed playing pool earlier was pinned down on top of one of the tables on the deck by some bikers that were already at the bar and well-oiled by the time I got here.

Two of the bikers held down her arms while the third one was struggling to unbutton her tight-fitting cut-off shorts. The girl was putting up a pretty good fight, but it was clear that she was going to eventually lose.

“Get off her,” I said as I stepped through the doorway.

The two guys holding her arms looked up and froze. The guy struggling on top of her just looked over his shoulder. He kept his hand on her midsection and leaned into her to keep her pinned down.

“I’d turn around and walk away if I were you, old man,” he said with a sneer.

“I might have done that,” I said, “but then you had to call me ‘old man.’”

“Then I guess you’re gonna get your ass kicked,” he said.

He turned around and took two steps toward me before I pulled my snub-nosed .38 out of my belt and put one in his thigh. He fell to the splintered wooden deck with a thud, the sound of the gunshot still echoing in the air, and began to cry like a baby.

“You shot me!” he managed to blurt out.

“Yeah…I’m too old to fight.”

It was 1:30 a.m. by the time I got finished with the cops and drove back to my place.

The light was on in the apartment next door. That meant one thing: Sheri, my tenant, was  up late studying.

“You’re coming home late, Eddie,” she said as I got out of the truck and she stepped into the porch light.

“Out fishing,” I said.

“I was hoping you were out with that woman you like who works over at MOD Coffee.”

Sheri’d lived here for two years and for a year-and-a-half she’d been trying to fix me up. We’d occasionally go to coffee together. It didn’t take her long to figure out I liked the day manager over at MOD, one of our local coffee shops.

“I’m going to bed,” was all I said.

And that’s exactly what I did. I slept in until 9 – which was late for me – and then spent most of the day running errands and doing work around the house.

I went over Holy Family about 7. I figured by then the line at the food pantry would be down and Sister Martha Marie would have time to talk.

“I’d heard about what had happened to Phillip,” she said after I introduced myself, told her I was a retired cop living here on the island, and I was looking into a case I knew the cops never would. “What a tragedy.”

“You’re one of the few people I’ve heard call him something other than ‘Crazy Phil,’” I said.

“He wasn’t crazy,” she said, her sadness visible on her face. “He was just lost.”

“How do you know that?”

“He sometimes helped me out around here,” she said, still struggling with the fact that she was talking about Phil in the past tense. “With the food pantry and other chores around the rectory. I’d give him a little bit of money, let him take a shower in the rectory.”

“What did you know about him?”

“Not much,” she said. “He didn’t like to talk about himself. But it was obvious to me that he was educated.”

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“One day, I asked him to help me move some furniture in the rectory,” she said. “Cardinal DiNardo has two Albrecht Durer reproductions hanging on the wall outside his office. ‘The Carrying of the Cross’ and ‘Praying Hands.’ Phillip immediately recognized both of them and pointed out lines and technique that I never learned in my art history class at Sacred Heart.”

“Anything else?”

“He doodled,” she said.


“One day, after he’d helped me around here, he was sitting at one of the tables in the pantry doodling on some papers that had been left there. It was quite good.”


“I signed him up for a class at the Galveston Art League,” she said. “I thought it might be therapeutic for him.”

“Do you mind if I ask you something?”

“Of course not,” she said.

“How did you become a nun?”

I could tell by the look on her face that it was a question she’d been asked before. She was gorgeous. Not in a runway model sort of way, but like the girl-next-door. Like my tenant Sheri.

Beautiful skin.

Gorgeous eyes.

And a smile that lit up the room.

I was almost embarrassed for noticing.

“It’s a long story,” she said. “But thank you for asking.”

“I’ll let you know what I find out about Phil,” I said.

“I would really appreciate that,” she said as a single tear dripped out of the corner of her left eye and trickled down her full, rosy cheek.

I turned around as I started to leave.

“By the way,” I asked. “How’d he do in the class.”

“Not well,” she said. “He came to one session and then never showed up again.”

“Thanks, sister.”

“No, Edward,” she said, making her the first woman to call me “Edward” since my mother. “Thank you.”

I went out back and got in my truck. As I backed out, I saw Sister Martha Marie come out of the pantry. I leaned over and rolled down the passenger window. I hate power doors and locks. Something my dad taught me.

“Just one other thing to break,” he used to say.

“What is it, sister?”

“Maybe you should go talk to Jeannette Miller over at the Art League,” she said. “I remember she called me when Phillip didn’t show up again. But she said he had talent.”

“Thanks, sister.”


Friday, Aug. 15

7:30 p.m.

I got lucky.

The Galveston Art League was having an open house this evening. So I dug a nice pair of slacks, a shirt and a jacket out of my closet.

I stopped off at Medicinal Purposes, another one of my regular hangouts, for a few drinks before I went over to rub elbows with a segment of Galveston society that was probably the least familiar to me. I was more comfortable in the tattered shorts and fishing pole crowd. But I’d learned that the guy up the jetty from you, in the car that wasn’t quite as nice as yours and the tackle box that wasn’t nearly as full, could be a former CEO worth eight figures. Galveston’s that kind of place. It’s one of the things I liked about it.

The reception was actually at the Water’s Edge Studio, one of the smaller studios away from the main art district. I walked in and hoped that the stunning red head in the middle of the room was Jeannette Miller.

As I tried to make my way toward her through more hot pink, lime green and banana yellow clothes than I’d ever seen in one place in my life, I was intercepted by a white-jacketed waiter with a tray of wine.

“Drink, sir?”

“Sure,” I said, grabbing a glass of the closest thing to me.

“There’s really some wonderful artists here on the island doing fabulous work,” she was saying as I walked up to the little circle around her. “I don’t know what those people up in the Heights think they have over us.”

“Crime,” I said.

That got her attention. And, yes, the stunning redhead turned out to be Jeannette Miller.

Up close, I realized she wasn’t really a redhead. Her hair was actually more of a brown with a red tint to it. Maybe it was just like that in the summer.

She had a gorgeous figure.



Her tight-fitting, sleeveless, summer-print dress showed off sculpted yet feminine biceps, a flat stomach, and powerful thighs. I guessed she ran or played a lot of tennis. I was trying not to stare, but got caught.

“What’s that you were saying?” she asked me a second time.

“They have more crime up in the Heights,” I said.

“Yes, I suppose they do,” she said, looking me up and down.

“No,” I said. “They do. I used to be a cop up there.”

“Really,” she said, showing enough interest that the little crowd that had been gathered around her slowly started to break up.

“Yeah,” I said. “But I’m retired now. Live down here.”

“What do you do down here?” she asked.

“Right now,” I said. “I’m looking into the death of one of your former students.”

“Which one?”

I told her about Phil, my meeting with Sister Martha Marie.

“He definitely had talent,” she said. “So much so that I went looking for him.”

“Looking for him?”

“I’m known for taking an interest in lost causes,” she said.

“That’s good news for me.”

“Maybe it is,” she said.

“So what did you find out?”

“How about if I tell you over drinks when this breaks up?”


“The Black Pearl,” she said. “We’ll talk over a plate of oysters and see where that leads.”

“I’ll be there.”


Friday, Aug. 15

10:15 p.m.

I went over to Murphy’s and sipped two glasses of Railean single barrel.

I used to be a Talisker guy, but gave up the high-priced single malt when I became a full-time resident of Galveston. Support the local economy, that sort of thing. Besides, I thought it tasted damn good.

“Find out anything about Phil?” Paul, the night bartender asked me.

“Workin’ on it.”

I made my way over to the Black Pearl about 10 and waited about 15 minutes before Jeannette walked in the door. It took her another 10 minutes to make it to the seat I was saving for her at the bar.

“Popular lady,” I said.

“Not really,” she said. “I’m here a lot.”

“What’ll it be?”

She ordered a bottle of nice Italian pinot grigio and two-dozen oysters.

“Hungry?” I asked after the bartender took our order.

“Oh I can eat a dozen all by myself,” she said. “I’m hoping you can keep up.”

“We still talking about oysters?”

“Yes, but let’s talk about Phil,” she said, giving me a wink.

“OK,” I said. “What can you tell me about him?”

“After he didn’t show up for any more of the classes, I went looking for him.”


“I found him,” she said. “I tried to talk to him but he just walked away, so I decided to follow him.”

“You don’t give up,” I said.

“Not when I get my teeth into something,” she said, picking up an oyster, sprinkling it with lemon, cocktail sauce and Tabasco before she scooped it out of the briny shell and stuck the fork into my mouth.

“You like?”

“Very much,” I said. “But we were talking about Phil.”

Over oysters and the rest of the pinot she told me that she followed him in her car down to the railroad tracks behind Wharf Road. He stopped at the dumpsters behind Joe’s Crab Shack and Katie’s Seafood Market. He pulled a big piece of plywood out of the dumpster behind Katie’s and then went down by the water.

“I sat in my car and just watched,” she said. “I didn’t want to spook him. I did that for about an hour but then it was starting to get late, so I went home.”


“The next day I came back and he was gone, but I saw the plywood sticking up out of the dumpster behind Katie’s.”

“He put it back?”

“Yeah,” she said, swallowing another doctored-up oyster and chasing it with a big swig of white wine.

“And you’ll never guess what was on it.”


“Probably one of the most beautiful seascapes I’d seen since my trip to the Peabody Museum a decade ago.”


“Yeah…I know,” she said. “I was as surprised as you are.”

“What’d you do?”

“I fished it out of the garbage and put it in my car. Looking at it back in my studio, it was even more beautiful than I’d first thought.”

She told me that three days later, she saw Phil sifting through the garbage behind Rudy and Paco’s, a little joint over on Postoffice and 21st. She walked up to him and handed him $100.

“What’s this for?” Phil asked, somewhat confused.

“I opened the back of my car,” she said, “and pulled out the plywood.”

“What did he do?” I asked.

“He started crying,” she said.

Jeannette walked with him over to MOD and bought him a cup of coffee.

“That’s the last time I talked to him,” she said.

Turns out “Crazy Phil” was really Phillip Montgomery Bartholomew. He came from a wealthy family on the East Coast, had trained at the Rhode Island School of Design.

“How’d he end up in Galveston, homeless?” I asked.

“He wouldn’t tell me,” she said.

“And that’s it?”

“I told Ron LeMaster about him.”

“Who’s that?”

“A gallery owner in New York I know,” she said. “He comes down here a few times a year to shows I curate.”

“There’s good talent here, Eddie,” she said, calling me by my first name. I liked that.

“Ron’s hosted two shows for Galveston artists at his gallery. He was here a week after I talked to Phil, took one look at the plywood seascape and wanted to find Phil.”

“Did he find him?”

“I’m not sure,” Jeannette said. “I haven’t had chance to call him since I heard that Phil was killed.”


Saturday, Aug. 16

10:30 a.m.

Jeannette didn’t have LeMaster’s card with her, so she invited me back to her place for a nightcap.

Ron LeMaster picked up on the third ring. I didn’t tell him much.

“Funny you should call, inspector,” he said, even though I wasn’t even a cop anymore. “I’m flying down there this afternoon. I’m meeting with Mr. Bartholomew tonight to see some more of his paintings and, if I like what I see, bring them back to New York for a show.”

“You’re going to display paintings done on broken plywood in a Soho gallery?” I asked.

“You’d be surprised, detective,” he said. “That authenticity will add another zero to the price tag.”

New York jackasses, I thought to myself.

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to be at that meeting,” I said. “I’ve got a few questions for Phillip myself.”


Saturday, Aug. 16

7:30 p.m.

The meeting was set for 8 o’clock in the parking lot of Pho 18, a decent Vietnamese place I sometimes ordered from down at the end of Winnie Street.

LeMaster was staying at the Hotel Galvez on the Seawall, so I met him at the bar and filled him in on what was going on. Jeannette was there, too.

“You really expect me to stay home tonight?” she’d asked when I called her this afternoon. I could tell by the tone of her voice that there was no talking her out of it.

At 7:45, LeMaster got a call on his cell phone. It was “Phil,” checking to see that the meeting was still on.

“Sure, I’m looking forward to it, Phillip?” LeMaster said in a surprisingly calm voice.

“You handled that pretty well,” I said.

“Eddie,” he said. “I stood between the Vanderbilts and the Van Cortlandts, bidding on a rare Picasso found in an attic in Upstate New York. They’re a hell of a lot more dangerous than whomever we’re going to meet in this parking lot.”

“Let’s go then,” I said.

LeMaster drove his rental car and Jeannette and I tailed him in my pickup. When we got to University Boulevard, Jeannette and I turned off and waited on the street near Medicinal Purposes. LeMaster continued on down Seawall and turned on Holiday Drive. When “Phil” showed up, he was gonna text me.

“This is really exciting,” Jeannette said as she reached over and put her hand on mine as we waited. “You really know how to show a girl a good time.”

“I’ll show you a good time when this case is over,” I said without looking at her.

Two minutes later, a banged up white minivan with expired temporary tags and a busted out side window with cardboard passed by us. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted one of the drunks from the House of Spirits, the first place I looked for clues to Phil’s death.

“That’s our guys,” I said as the van drove down Winnie toward Pho 18.

“How do you know?” Jeannette asked.

“Trust me.”

I waited until the minivan pulled into the restaurant parking lot before I pulled away from the curb and followed them down the street. By the time I stopped 25 feet from the parking lot, they were already out of the car, shaking hands with LeMaster.

I drove the car slowly up the street and pulled over near the entrance to the parking lot. I didn’t want to spook these guys. I didn’t know if they were armed and they were too close to LeMaster.

“Stay here and dial 9-1-1,” I told Jeannette as I slowly opened the door of my pickup.

I was about halfway across the parking lot when the three of them walked to the driver’s side of the van, blocking my view. It allowed me to hurry across the parking lot to the back of the van unseen, but I wasn’t sure what I would find once I came around the corner.

“You got the money?” I heard one of them say just before I stepped around the corner of the minivan.

“Of course I have the money,” I heard LeMaster say.

Just then, the bum with the blonde hair spotted me peeking around the corner of the van.

“Cops!!” he screamed.

I stepped out from behind the van and put one round from my .38 into the blonde guy’s thigh, dropping him. But that gave the dark-haired guy enough time to grab LeMaster and use him as a human shield.

“Back off, man,” he said, pulling an ice pick out of nowhere and pressing it against LeMaster’s throat.

“Back off, man, or I’ll cut him.”

“Go ahead,” I said. “I don’t even like art.”

Just then, Jeannette appeared at the front of the van.

“Drop it!” she said.

She didn’t even have a gun. But when “Phil” turned to see who it was, LeMaster elbowed him in the ribs and pulled away from him.

I put a round in his shoulder and he fell to the ground with a thud.

As I walked over to pick up the ice pick he’d dropped, I heard sirens in the distance.

“Drop it?” I said, looking at Jeannette. “No one says that. Not even cops.”

“It worked, didn’t it.”

I had to admit, it had.

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