Questionable Characters and Unprincipled People by ME McMullen

M E McMullen's hardboiled detective Harry and his partner Trina, investigating a shooting in LA, follow a lead to Mexico and find a money man who was supposed to be dead.

There was shooting at Dirty Dog Jake's in LA a while back.

Two bands robbing a third band in the parking lot. Not like any bands I ever played in, you know. When DDJ's was a bust-out joint called 'The Ballroom', shoot-outs were not unheard of, but the idea of bands robbing other bands in a place where unprincipled people were known to hang out set off alarms all over, leaving some to wonder about vaguely rumored connections to suspected plots of sabotage and other covert terrorist activities.

Various other unprincipled individuals buying short contracts on emergency forfeiture bonds were suspect as well, but shady as these birds were, they were not connected, so far as anybody could tell, to the shadowy world of Dirty Dog Jake's parking lot shoot out. But because profit at the expense of others through criminal acts, insider info, sharp practice and, if necessary, violence, are the tools of questionable characters and unprincipled people at all levels of society, along with getting others to do their dirty work when possible, I'm betting a connection will surface.

A questionable character named Frankie Jake bought the old Ballroom. He knocked out some walls, expanded the illegal gaming parlors, added a brothel and renamed the joint in his own honor. My mom's brother, Uncle Fritz, told me the story. Fritz is a retired vice cop. Great guy. Always a shock of blond hair sticking out from under his Dodger cap. Big fisherman. Told funny stories about busting clip joints, confiscating rigged roulette wheels, loaded dice, shrunken head collections and foul-mouthed parrots. Fritz got around. After he retired, he moved to Florida.

Frankie Jake found new partners with fresh money. Gus Millard was one. The shooting at Dirty Dog Jake's in LA set wheels in motion back east and Gus's name came up. When threats of domestic terrorism are deemed credible, wheels go in motion. Particulars are not necessarily available, however, to field people. Meanwhile, I'm on a flight to Mexico.

Couple days to settle in, we're downtown following our subject, Frankie Jake, code name DDJ, as he strolls the sunny boulevards of teeming Tampico with his amiga, Lupe and her Chihuahua. Links with the gun play at his former joint, Dirty Dog Jake's and a terrorism threat aren't apparent. My partner, Trina, thinks that one of the birds busted for the DDJ's 'band' robbery must've claimed to have information.

Trina, in her tourist wife cover, bristles along beside me with her hokey pink pants and her cheap trinkets, quoting guidebooks, chattering on about her friend Myra's 'Dracula look' facelift, relieving the tensions of surveillance in a foreign city. Frankie, walking ahead, is decked out in a Panama hat and linen suit. Mr. Respectability. He stops on the sidewalk, causing people to walk around him. Something eacross the street has caught his attention. Frankie turns around on a dime and heads right for us.

We turn to gaze on several studies of Elvis on velour as Frankie breezes by, head down, not looking back. Across the street, his supposedly dead former partner, Gus Millard, stares over for a few seconds, turns and heads off down a side street. I follow. Trina stays with Frankie.

Gus goes to a club called La Baqueta, with a winged drum stick in gaudy neon outside. I give it a couple minutes, follow him in. The place is a noisy mix of Americanos and locals, with a scruffy-looking rock group playing 'Honky Tonk Women', a staple of cover bands since back in my day. I order a Dos Equis while casually surveying the array of bouncers and armed assistant managers scattered around like snakes in a snake pit. There's a fancy, hand-carved mahogany back bar with two bartenders who look like they might've just gotten out of jail. A bar on the side is tended by a tall slim gaucho type who might look on acid like the ghost of Valentino. The dance floor crowd is a pulsating mob of bouncy bright shirts, perfumed chest hairs, dark eyes and tan skin.

'These two birds in one town at one time is no coincidence', I text to Trina.

She's 'having tortilla soup', meaning she's followed Frankie home and is going to sit on his place. The intel, meanwhile, is very vague stuff about a plot out of Tampico. What two former LA underworld figures have to do with it remains to be seen. Maybe Gus was one of the chumps left holding the bag when Frankie made whatever deal he made with whoever he made it with, leaving him under protection in Mexico and a lot of unprincipled people back home with Feds going through their garbage.

Gus Millard was known as a guy with more cash than flash, taking the opposite of how that expression usually went, 'real money' guys like Gus being the exception to the rule promulgated by Uncle Fritz: that every third person you met on the street was running a game. Gus brought real money to the table when most brought big talk and a four-flusher bankroll of ones rolled up in a fifty.

Gus was looking for ownership not vig.

Any scenario I can come up with begins with the question I texted to Trina. "What's Gus Millard doing in Tampico when he's supposed to be in an urn at Forest Lawn?" Trina says she'll let me know. All's quiet at Frankie Jake's place, meanwhile. Trina thinks they're up to something, so, she's 'notching up the tortilla soup'.

Meanwhile, I check out La Baqueta, pretty sure afterward that Gus Millard's not there in the main bar. I nurse another Dos Equis and become, voila, Donny Bidwell, LA expatriate and criminal fringe player, former soft and hardcore porn movie maker, purveyor of pirated goods, former metal rock player with Crash and Burn among others, song writer, drug dealer, rock and roll impresario, Hollywood hustler, on the run from IRS liens, shylock enforcers, mob hit men, jealous husbands, who knew? Always looking over his shoulder, Donny's not real good on last names. Charming and oily, my alter ego stirs interest with his impressive name drop of unsavory LA connections. The bartender's friend, Rico, a slippery little hustler in his own right, likes Donny so much he says he'll be back after he's made his rounds.

Meanwhile, Trina's climbed on the roof and dropped a bug down Frankie's fireplace shaft with fishing thread. She's picking up chatter, sending it over:

"Maybe dead isn't what I'm looking for here. Maybe presumed dead is better. A button man named Mad Dog Marsh supposedly took him out. You went to night school, Lupe, you tell me: better or worse that we're nearly seen together in town?"

"You never miss a chance to make a crack about night school, do you, Frankie?"

"Gus Millard was working for the Feds. One day, he disappears. Rumors fly. Everybody figures Gus for dead. Showing his face in public in Tampico puts him on somebody's short list, Lu, and me with him."

"It's not a short list, honey, it's a shit list."

"Real funny."

"What's your plan?"

"Call Syl, set up a barbeque."

"You sure?"

"Have Tony call him."

An hour after that, Lupe and Frankie were back out on the road in a powder blue Cadillac with Trina hot on their tail in a peso cab driven by a local operative. Donny Bidwell, meanwhile, sips cervesa with Rico, who says he never heard of Crash and Burn, Donny's heavy metal group, getting the same answer everybody gets when somebody says that, which is: 'They never heard of you either.'

Rico meanwhile escorts Bidwell upstairs to hear 'soft mariachi', meet some people, mellow out and see what's up. We pass bouncer types with a hard eye for the new guy. Upstairs, a nice little cabaret room, red lighting and eye biting incense, thick aroma of weed cuts the air, but no sign of Gus. We get into this group's long floating horn melodies and salsa driven keyboard riffs. Pretty soon, Donny Bidwell is hungry, so he springs for dinner, flashing a wad of American cash, telling Rico about this guy, a friend of his uncle's, who comes to La Baqueta all the time, knows the ropes around GJ.

I watch for reaction as my glib Donny alter ego describes Gus Millard to a tee, right down to the receded hairline and small stature. Rico tries to act like it doesn't ring a bell, shakes his head, but it's clear that the closer Donny gets to talking about Gus Millard, the tighter Rico's jaws get.

"So, you're looking to find a guy," Rico says, "and you don't know what name he's going by, but you have an idea what he looks like. He's your uncle's friend and knows his way around Tampico. So, what are you selling, Donny?"


"I think you're selling something. So does Mr. Martino."

"Who's Mr. Martino?"

"The guy you described. He's one of the owners."

"Mr. Martino?"

Rico's grin pretty much covered it. He had me pegged with this uncle's friend story. He was pretty sure I had something to sell, so Donny went with it. Yeah, Donny had something to sell, something he needed to talk with Mr. Martino about, personally. What was it? Well, that was the thing, wasn't it?

The Italian movie back story is not so easily checked out in LA, but the real sell will be when Mr. Martino, a.k.a. Gus Millard, arrives, because Gus is an unprincipled guy who will smell out the Italian movie project for questionable because he was questionable himself and knew questionable when he saw it. He'll say the movie sounds interesting but he'll want to know what else Donny's selling, which is where the going gets tricky. If there was a plot, the merest misstatement could get me offed. Even if he wasn't involved, Gus probably knew his old pal, Frankie Jake, was hiding out in the shadow of the Temple of Tamaulipas.

We picked that nice public spot for the next meeting with Martino, the grand temple built in honor of the state of Tamaulipas. Trina was at the hotel when I got back.

She'd followed Frankie and Lupe around town for a while before they returned home. She was pretty sure they spotted her, but she had a phony mustache, a wig and a new car. She thinks they might've taken her for a man. Meanwhile, she had local operatives sitting on Frankie and Lupe. The 'Tony' mentioned on the tape is Frankie's youngest son, a sociopath with a record. 'Syl' is Juan Sylvestro, a cartel underboss and hired killer. Not people you want at your barbeque.

The Temple of Tamaulipas is a bad spot because there's a parade with a bunch of noisy kids, so we switch to a park by a huge inverted cupola set on top of an array of flying buttresses. We find a bench and wait. Gus arrives late in a black stretch limo bearing a grin and bookend goons disguised as chauffeurs. "Donny Bidwell," he says, extending a clammy hand. "We have mutual friends in LA."

"I appreciate your meeting with me, Mr. Martino."

"Rico's impressed with your connections."

"This is a ground floor piece of a Bertolli movie, Mr. Martino. Bear in mind that 'Garden of Delights', his last film, grossed a hundred and forty million worldwide."

"Risky stuff."

"The investors tripled their money."

"We'll take a ride," he said amiably, "you can tell me more."

Gus was more open to Donny Bidwell's movie gambit than I expected. He offered me a drink and asked about my uncle. I wanted him to see that the movie pitch was an ice breaker, but not the whole agenda. He wanted to know how I found him and who else knew where he was.

"My Uncle Fritz had twenty two years in with LAPD when he retired and moved to Florida. I mentioned Tampico and your name came up."

"He knew me?"

"He said you had a club in LA."

"I'm real curious how he knew all that. Makes me wonder how retired he is."

"Uncle Fritz knows people."

Gus Millard grinned the way a crocodile might before he eats you. Minutes later we were driving through a part of the city that looked like the French Quarter of New Orleans, with wrought iron balconies and fancy French shutters. It'd become clear that Gus 'Mr. Martino' Millard didn't buy this Uncle Fritz rap, and might've been figuring out the logistics involved in having me disappear. I decided to play my ace while I still had the chance.

"Maybe a piece of the Bertolli picture isn't a good fit," I said, "but I also wanted to talk about Frankie Jake."

He looked at his associates, then back at me. "What about Frankie Jake?"

"I know people in LA, Mr. Martino," I said, encouraged by his renewed interest, "who claim Frankie Jake is alive and well in GJ, living under the cartel protection and somehow enjoying immunity from prosecution. 'Here is a well-heeled guy,' I told myself. I thought about pitching the movie to Frankie but decided against it. I called Uncle Fritz instead. He knows people who know people. Your name came up. He figured you might appreciate a tip, Frankie being in Tampico, but it also occurred to him that you might already know."

Hard to tell what stone faced Gus was thinking, but I pressed the case.

"My people figured that maybe Frankie Jake, theoretically, with his connections, is onto a score but that he maybe needs to come up with some front money. He can't use his own because the cops will be all over it. He can't go to his cartel friends because they'd want too much and people end up dead with them. So, we like the odds. We figure there's room for another investor, theoretically."

Gus Millard flashed a poker face half smile. "We'll be in touch," he said. "Can I drop you somewhere?"

I gave him a name I saw on a billboard, Las Palmas. He dropped me there. I had a drink at the patio bar, took a cab to my hotel and turned in early. It wasn't until the next morning I learned that Trina hadn't been to her room all night. I was pondering all this in the lobby when a story came on English Language TV that Mexican authorities had found the body of an unidentified American woman washed up near one of the piers uptown. Preliminary reports indicated she'd been shot. Unless I heard from Trina soon, I was going to have to visit the morgue. Not a pleasant prospect, but there was no phoning home. We were on our own.

I took a cab to a street near Frankie Jake's compound and made a low key, pedestrian approach to the surveillance spot Trina mentioned. A white unmarked van with two local operatives Trina called 'Spike and Mike' was parked in the shade of a large thicket. I wasn't ready to visit the morgue, so, I tied a handkerchief around my head and crept down the sidewalk to the back of the van. Crouching next to the right front wheel, I began prying off the hub cap with my metal WORLD'S GREATEST DAD key chain holder. When the cap clattered on the ground, a familiar voice came from the van. It was Spike, of Spike and Mike fame, asking me what the hell I was doing.

"Stealing your hub caps. Where's Trina?"

"La Puerta," he said.

"What's with that?"

"She said she had a line on something."


"She didn't say. Get your ass out of here."

"Have a quiet night, amigos."

La Puerta is a snazzy health club in downtown Tampico. I hung around pretending to be waiting for somebody, looking at my watch, checking messages. The clientele were mainly young, buff and on the slim side, which is why two overweight bozos dubbed Juan and Juan Tu stood out. They were carrying a canvas satchel out the side door, which could've held a drugged, trussed up Trina, if she wasn't already in the morgue. I hate sidetracks, but here was no way of knowing without following them, so I did, to a large Catholic church about half a mile away. The two Juans went inside and returned moments later with a young priest who watched as they popped the trunk and carried the satchel inside.

Donny Bidwell happened by just then, scouting Tampico churches for a movie location. Turned out the satchel was filled, not with Trina's lifeless body as I feared, but with some quite stylish ladies' clothing: fancy shoes, chic pants and tops, stunning scarves and shimmery evening dresses. Outside, I had a chat with the two Juans and learned that their boss, Jose 'Pepper' Ramirez, used to dance in a cabaret in San Francisco as a female impersonator. Some of his old clothing was being donated to the church by Senora Heralda Von Pecos, a name chosen at random from the directory.

I'd gotten sidetracked. I was no closer to finding Trina and still clueless about Frankie Jake and Gus Millard. Nothing made any sense, in fact, until I remembered something Trina said. She'd seen a fifteen second slice of surveillance tape showing a 'female' suspect in a parking garage. She studied it and soon became convinced it was a man posing as a woman. This thought, coupled with the fact that there was no Heralda Von Pecos in the directory, had me wondering if the two Juans had played me. I had peeked at some labels and noticed that several pieces were bought at 'La Incomformista', an upscale shop not far from our hotel.

As my cab pulls up to the place, there's Trina coming up the sidewalk, headed my way. My heart soars for several seconds, I admit. I want to hug my partner, but our relationship isn't like that. Instead, I manage a smile and a wisecrack.

"I thought you were dead."

"I am," she says, giving me a weary grin. "An American girl who worked at La Puerta really is; washed up under a pier. Her boy friend is a bad actor with ties to the cartels. The cops like him for it, but he's disappeared. I spent half the night sitting on a cross-dressing club owner on a hunch, proving nothing. I'm either dead or just really tired, I'm not sure which."

"How'd you like to be Mrs. Donny Bidwell?"

Trina smiles. "What girl wouldn't?"

The meeting between the Bidwells, Gus and Frankie didn't turn out as we'd hoped. We were on time. Our cab driver Jose, one of Trina's local operatives, had units standing by. We got our first inkling something was wrong when a black car pulled to the curb and four dudes eased out, each one looking badder than the last. There was a beat to their advance. The tall one was drummer and leader. The others took their cadence from him. They swept across the street like Sharks headed to fight the Jets, up to no good, ignoring everything and everybody around them including us.

It occurred to me this might be the band that teamed with another band to rob a third band back in Dirty Dog Jake's parking lot, making me wonder if maybe the robbery story was a cover for something more sinister. I was mentioning this to Trina when a second limo came rolling up and disgorged four more guys you would have to call hard looking dudes. If there was an intimidation factor at play, it was working.

Trina grimaced as the second band followed the first toward the large open park area. Before we could think about splitting, we heard the crackling of several rounds of shots. A second limo blocked our exit, so, Jose maneuvered the cab across the grass and came to an abrupt stop in a tangle of hedges. We stayed on the floor of the cab until the shooting stopped as abruptly as it began, and someone alighted from the limo that was blocking off our escape. It was Gus Millard motioning to one of the other limos. Soon, Frankie Jake emerged and climbed into his limo, seemingly unruffled. As planned, we made our Bidwell surrender move. Seconds later, we were piling into Gus's black limo and speeding from the scene.

Gus Millard's villa lay south of town.

We drove under an arch and down a long, tree lined lane to a large white house set against a backdrop of distant mountains. Still puzzled by that first street encounter when Frankie bolted at the sight of Gus across the street, I decided that if Frankie knew he had a tail, acting startled to see Gus on the street was a good move. Knowing his place was bugged, he could talk about going on a hit list with Gus in town, like they were still old enemies. Pretty cunning way to hide the fact they actually had a big score about to go down.

We pile out of the limos and into the house where a little party's been set up, with gorgeous tables of food and drinks with flowers floating on them passed around. Gus is soon talking about the shoot-out in LA, and how it spilled over. Things seem very much up in the air. I am nervous. The talk goes from bands robbing other bands to why the Bidwells' shy friends, these well-heeled principles with cash burning holes in their pockets, send others to do their business. This especially bothers Gus, who remains curious about how we found him. A cartel guy named Rico is on his way here, we learn, about to sweeten the deal, lessening the need for the Bidwell backers' money. This new player says he knows the Bidwells from LA Indie film circles. Interesting. This Rico's a different Rico from the slippery little slick-haired gofer Rico I met at Gus Millard's place. From what I hear, he's a study in questionable characters; cartel enforcer, badass drug dealing, arms smuggling outlaw biker dude running from the FBI. On top of all that, he's late because he just had two wisdom teeth pulled.

Things are not looking good for the home team, and if all that isn't bad enough, the thugs behind Frankie Jake and Gus Millard seem to be itching to blast somebody just to keep in practice. Dying in a blaze of gunfire was not how I wanted to go out, but the imminent appearance of Rico Two definitely put us on borrowed time. One option was to identify ourselves and shoot whoever resisted, maybe take a couple of them out before we went down in a hail of bullets. Another option was to skip the identification and go straight to the shooting, take a couple of them out before we went down in a hail of bullets. A third option was to pretend we were in cahoots with Rico Two, offer him up as the guy who ratted out Gus Millard, a ploy that would probably end with us going down in a hail of bullets.

I was mulling this over when I noticed Trina exchange a glance with Frankie Jake. Gus Millard noticed too and was soon exchanging glances with one of his henchman, a little guy with a broken nose. All this serious glance exchanging was making me very nervous indeed. Trina and I had worked together for years, been in and out of a hundred scrapes. I didn't believe for a second she'd ever sell out, but she might pretend to if it helped with a scrape.

"I decided being Mrs. Donny Bidwell no longer works for me, Don," said. "If there's going to be a big score, I want in for myself. Sorry, Don, but I know about that little tramp you have stashed in Pasadena. You strayed once too often, honey."

I hung my head.

Trina had sold Frankie the old tramp in Pasadena dodge as reason to kick me under the bus and throw in with him for the money. That didn't solve our problem with Gus Millard, who had us on hair trigger with his assassin pals, but it did put him off stride. Meanwhile, as another white limo pulls in, a small breeze comes up, tossing the treetops and giving me one of those little chills that come over you while you're working on a cold sweat and thinking about your imminent death. The air is charged with anticipation. This new arrival has to be Rico Two.

There are some bushes a few feet away, but the look on Trina's face stops me from bolting for them. She's watching these new arrivals ease out of the limo. With heavies on either side, the new boss man appears. Dark shades on a face that's looking hard and maybe vaguely familiar. It was Rico this and Rico that while the small talk was going on, but the broad shoulders and shocks of gray hair sticking out from the blue Dodger cap clued me to something so weird that I had trouble getting my head around it. Looking more like a cartel coke dealer than a retired flatfoot, Rico Two was none other than my Uncle Fritz. What he was doing in Mexico going by Rico was anybody's guess. He pretended not to know me. I nodded curtly and pretended not to know him. Trina, meanwhile, spoke up. "My people are prepared to match any number you want to talk about here, Mr. Rico, for a share."

"Of what?" Rico said, smiling.

Trina smiled radiantly but remained silent.

"Somebody put them on me," Gus said.

"Who tipped you, to Mr. Martino, Bidwell?" Rico said, smiling graciously.

I smiled back. "You did, Mr. Rico. You said there was a leak and you wanted us to find it."

"Did you find it?"

"We did, sir." I said, glancing at Trina. "Two leaks actually. Somebody inside La Baqueta has been in contact with Federales in GJ."

The cops are sitting on Frankie's hacienda," Trina said, "monitoring everything in and out."

"Is that so?" Rico said, feigning shock.

The doubt on the faces of Frankie Jake and Gus Millard was soon mixed with anger. Rico's smile quickly disappeared, meanwhile, replaced by tight-lipped stares at his two compadres. With no clear picture of what Fritz had going, our only move was to shut up and stay out of the way. Everybody's watching everybody. You could cut the tension with a fillet knife. I'm watching the little guy with the broken nose watch Frankie Jake, who's watching Rico watch Gus Millard. Right in the middle of all this watching, I remember one of Uncle Fritz's off-the-cuff life lessons: 'Uncertain people are sometimes vulnerable to suggestion.'

"There was a shooting at Dirty Dog Jake's a while back," I say.

Their eyes lock. For this brief interlude, they are of one mind, alerted by my reference. "This edge of mayhem stuff reminds me of something my Uncle Fritz used to say, 'If you see there's going to be a fight, start it. If you see a play's to be made, make it.' Bands are stepping up to rob other bands, making their play with snipers posted around like good luck charms; somebody could get his ass shot off here."

That word got their attention. It was unlikely that anybody had actually posted snipers, but for all they knew, somebody could've. It certainly wasn't above a double crossing rat like Donny Bidwell. It lent a certain heft to the remarks.

"Wall Street chiselers shorting Emergency Disaster bonds is one thing, out-of-control crazies are something else entirely."

"Out of control?"

"We are in grave danger."

"What are you?"

"When crazies betray their partners," Rico Two said, "they sometimes leave a paper trail to incriminate whoever they don't eliminate. There is no dealing with such people. It's kill, or be -"

"Killed; yeah, we know."

Gus is not impressed. He and Frankie are beginning to wonder about Rico and which set of crazies is being referred to here. If they know nothing about anything, as they claim, why do Frankie and Gus tense up when Rico mentions crazies? They know they're talking into a wire all day, and you don't name any names you could relate to being 'crazies'. Rico Two, meanwhile, mentions an outfit from down in South GJ, the diablos, a gang of ruthless assassins, wondering aloud if they'd jump ship when a better offer came along. Would these same guys soon be offering up Frankie Jake or Gus for ransom?

Somebody pops off a shot, all Hell breaks loose.

Trina goes to the ground as I scramble for the bushes. We'd figured this could go bad and wore body armor. Good thing. I can hear the bullets whistling by my ears and thudding into the walls behind me. I can hear them whining as they ricochet off the pavement. The bushes put a gash in my forearm, but I manage to avoid being shot. Scrambling along the ground, heading for a wall at the end of the parking lot, I hear Trina's voice and see her ducking behind the wall a bit ahead of me.

Emergency sirens scream all around, and I crawl along the base of the wall until I'm beside her. "We need to leave," She keeps popping her head up. She has that look she gets when she's about to make a weird move nobody including her expects. "Follow me," she says, moving toward the parking lot exit and a side street.

We find an alley just as the cops arrive. People are lying in the street. A black limo is waiting at the far end of the alley. We pile into the back. Up front are Rico Two and a driver. Frankie Jake and Gus, looking glum, occupy the seats across from us.

"How you been, kid?" Uncle Fritz's voice brings back a whole past of family get-togethers and great laughs.

"Fine, fine." I resist the urge to ask about my cousins.

"These are bottom line times," he says, "and the bottom line here is that some crazies are lying in the street and some are kneeling before the local cops while we're invited to a blow-out at the GJ Downtown Hilton later on, with fancy people and sumptuous food. Time to clean up and get a little rest because they eat very late down here. Frankie and Gus will be there as guests of honor. In the business, there's no past, you know. We live and die with trade-offs."

It was a clean speech, but Rico Two understood when Trina and I begged off from the festivities at the Hilton and flew home the next morning. We were short on names, short on eye witness accounts of criminal activity, short on everything. If there was a plot, and we never claimed there was or wasn't, it was probably scuttled after the shootouts. Who Uncle Fritz worked for, how he'd managed to get bands of crazies shooting at each other instead of him, we never learned. Our debriefers had no idea what we were talking about. Here, I'd all along pictured grizzly old Fritz in his ratty Dodger hat, fishing off a bridge somewhere down in the Keys. Shows how wrong you can be. It wasn't until the next day when Trina called about the overnight reports of an explosion in Guadalajara, Mexico that I felt a chill down my back.

The Downtown Hilton Hotel. Seven killed; thirty two injuries. Several Americans among the casualties; no names released. The authorities were exploring a cartel war angle. Trina said there was no point in asking about Fritz. We'd find out eventually. As he knew better than most, you deal with these questionable characters and unprincipled people at your peril. Harry Walker's my name, by the way. I might've forgotten to mention it. No harm done. These days, I use several names anyway, take a different route to work every day, all that. It goes with the turf.


  1. Your descriptive passages give authenticity to your plot and your writing style is easy and relaxed. An enjoyable read.

    1. Thanks Beryl. The `voice' in this piece has blood lines to Dashell Hammett, Micky Spillane and a few others. Fun voice to write in. M.E.McMullen