Status: In Progress

Genre: Mystery and Crime



Status: In Progress

Genre: Mystery and Crime



In 1970s Sacramento, lady detective Jackie 'Jack' Collins is hired by an aging ex-con to find his son - who turns out to be entangled in a scheme so crazy it just might take Jack down with it.
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In 1970s Sacramento, lady detective Jackie 'Jack' Collins is hired by an aging ex-con to find his son - who turns out to be entangled in a scheme so crazy it just might take Jack down with it.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Chapter One

Author Chapter Note


Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 26, 2017

Reads: 21

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 26, 2017



Chapter one


I'd been telephoned by a man called Graham. He was fifty-six if memory was to be trusted, and best known for running crack out of his basement from 1931-1942 That was when he'd been busted by Police Detectives John Ellerman and Rachel Arden for misdemeanor possession and distribution. He'd served the whole twenty five because his drugs had resulted in more than one underage OD and a couple of underage deaths. From what I gathered he'd only been let out recently and that on parole he hadn't been violated yet, but mostly because ex-Vice Police Detective Jack Collins had found him snorting coke and had cut him some slack. He'd taken a liking to me, I guess, because he asked me to do him a favor – I didn't even have to have him hire me, but I wanted to anyway, because he'd stacked up some pretty serious dough from dealing, and money was money wherever it came from.

He'd relocated to less fancy but considerably more livable digs in Rancho Cordova. I found myself in the white washed marble lobby of Florentine Apartments, checking the address and looking for the elevator. The receptionist eyed me curiously; I probably wasn't consistent with the typical fodder that populated this building. Hookers, dope fiends, maybe even athletes – clean-cut, plain thirty-three year old woman in a suit didn't fit the bill. 

Graham's house was on the fifth floor. It took me six minutes in the elevator to get to my destination; the elevators in old apartment buildings still work like the internet is far in the future and computers are still the size of trash cans. With a screech only bats could hear I was ushered into the musty hallway – musty not because of dead moths or flickering flourescent lights, but because every piece of antique furniture in the place had long ago lost it's utility. The floors were all wooden, out of pace with the marble lobby, the carpet on the floor was faded and covered in elaborate floral designs that had probably taken the Chinese workhouse that had made it over a year to perfect. Lots of portrait paintings all over the walls – the place only needed a sign cautioning the viewer not to touch anything, and it would look just like a museum exhibit. Just when I was thinking no one in his right mind would live here, a door near my opened and a woman put out a small black cat, which ran along the carpet without paying me any attention.

I rapped the door that corresponded with Joe Graham's current address, number 233. Graham opened the door personally, which was a change from the last time we'd seen eye to eye – last time he'd been living in a classy modern apartment in Folsom and the door had been answered by a weedy little kid named Billy who screened all of Graham's callers. 

“Hey. It's Collins. You rang?”

“Come in.” 

He looked like a withered nut. He personally hadn't changed since I'd seen him last, even though the house couldn't be more different; the inside wasn't much different from the outside, wooden walls and floors and carpets full of dead bugs. Call me a snot but when a guy switches from whirring machinery and tiled kitchens to mahogany and rye, it probably means he's either developed an abnormal interest in antiquities or he's become one himself.

“You're looking at my house. You don't like what you see.” He was watching my face, and he probably didn't like what he saw either.

“Seems a little out of character for you, Graham. You researching Louis XV?”

“I'm trying to keep myself in tact. Surrounding myself with finery helps.”

“Finery's one thing, Graham. Antiques from the downtown museum are another.”

“Comes with the house. I am getting to the point where I cannot choose where I live. Financial reasons forbid.”

“Join the club. Speaking of financial reasons, you mentioned you had a job for me.”

“You're no longer a vice cop?”


“Private eye?”


“Then you'll pledge confidentiality for me? You won't go telling the cops about my little – problem?”

“The term 'private' isn't just a title, Graham. Why don't you acquaint me with this little problem of yours?”

“In a minute.” He brought me to the wooden table and sat me down in a hardback chair. I felt my rear end falling asleep already.

“I never had much experience making money outside of dealing. I had lots of money stored up – not much for posterity, but a little bit for myself. But apparently, not enough to go on living the life I used to live. I'm slowly losing my security – and if I don't find a steady job soon, I'll have to downgrade.”

“There's a tragedy.”

“You live rough?”

“Single room, foldout bed, little walking space. I'm ready for a fire.”

“But there is a true pleasure to be found in the finer things in life.”

“To each his own, Graham.”

“You want a drink?”

“What have you got?”

“Anything you'd like.”

“Scotch, straight.”

“You truly don't like the finer things, do you?”

“Is it a sin?”

“Not in any formal sense of the word. But if you don't at least reach for something better – you may never rise above.”

“When I've got the time and the money, I'll use it for whatever I want. But for now, I'd like the Scotch.”

He nodded. He went to his kitchen, came back with two glasses and a smile that looked like he'd rather be in a New York sewer on a hot day.

“I've always enjoyed a mix of vermouth and vodka, splashed together with a little bit of sours and an olive on the side.”

“You'd need four ingredients just to prepare that.”

“I suppose you're right.” He sipped a little from his glass and winced delicately. “Scotch and soda. Not quite my style.”

“What about this....little problem?” 

“Did you know that I have a son?”

I shook my head. He nodded, his little head bouncing up and down on his neck like a turtle's. “He's only twenty-six. I didn't even know I had him until I got out of the slam. This was a while before you caught me with that stuff. When I was younger, I had quite a lot of flings with women. They always rather pleased me...and I suppose I was wrong.”

“Everyone sleeps with people when they're young.”

“But I mean I did not treat these women well. I would sleep with them for some time, then abandon them. I am not proud of it.”

“Your son was the product of one of these escapades?”

“Yes. You've got it. I learned that I had a son when his mother came around after I got out asking for support. I take it he was being difficult, had tried to run away...I didn't have the money and she didn't have the time for it, and the last I heard of him he had run away. I don't think I thought of it much; she was one of many people who showed up at my door demanding money after I got out. That was partly why I ended up here.” He gestured around the apartment with one hand, pointing at all the cuts here and here – the holes in the wall, the nails that showed through the carpet. 

I gave him a quick nod. “And what do you want me to do?”

“I'm an old man. I have spent almost all of my life doing the wrong thing. I want just once to see my son. I want to know how he's doing, what sort of people he's consorting with. I want to know if he needs help, and if – if there's a chance he might want me to act as his father...Which I never did...”

His voice trailed off. I could see he didn't want to look weak in front of me, but it was obviously a painful subject for him. He took a deep breath and went on.

“I've never seen him. Only heard about him from his mother. I know that he has light hair, like me. His mother said he was a handsome boy. But she hadn't seen him in nearly ten years. He'd run away from home after he dropped out of high school.”

He looked away then. I nodded.

“You want me to track down your son. How old will he be now?”

“Thirty or so.”

“Where can I find his mother?”

“In the ground. She died last year. That's partly why I decided to hire you. I can't guarantee that you'll be able to find him. If he doesn't want to be found, he won't be found. But I know that I'm not going to last much longer. A life full of drugs, liquor and pills may be fun while it lasts, but it doesn't do you much good when you're old and clutching onto your last few years like precious stones. If there's one thing I did wrong in my life, it's my son. And this is my chance to make it right.”

His eyes closed, and then opened. He became businesslike. “I want you to find him. I'll pay you your usual fee, plus a substantial bonus if and when you get results.”

“If I'm going to do this, I need all the information you have. What's his name?”

“Carl. Carl Dusty Graham.”

“Any unusual spelling?”

“No. It's spelled just like it sounds.”

“His birthdate?”

“1982. According to his mother he was born on October 12.”

“Place of birth?”

“I don't know.”

“Okay. You said he's light-haired. As in blond?”

“Yes. At least, I think so. That's what she said...”

“Well, it doesn't really matter. Hair color changes all the time. Dies, haircuts, wigs. So he's thirty years old. You've never seen him. But you've seen his mother. What can you tell me about her? What did she look like?”

“How will that help you?”

“In order to figure out if I've found the right guy, I need to know what both his mother and his father looked like around the age he is now. That may give me some idea of what he will look like. Mind you, it's not definitive, but it's all I have to go on.”

He nodded. “Layla was tallish and pale. Very all-American – Blond, beautiful, large-breasted. Perfect figure, perfect smile, big heavily-lidded blue eyes. Perfect complexion. And god, could she dress! She didn't have any more than a few pennies in the bank but she made the most of it – and she looked good in the clothes she wore. She was a cocktail waitress. You'd never have thought to look at her that she was addicted to coke. It showed when we met again, when she was an older woman. None of that beauty and vitality then. I very much fear that may have been my fault...She was almost angelically beautiful in her young days...”

A look of deep sadness came into his face. The look that any man would have at the thought of a beautiful young woman growing old. 

“I've seen photos of you as a young man. So I figure your son is probably blond, like his mother said.” I tapped my knuckle on the chair arm, then swallowed my drink and said, “You'll need to sign a contract with me. I'll pledge my willingness to serve your purpose and you'll promise to pay me my regular fee, plus expenses. And if you so wish it, a bonus for results.”

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