Authors: John Stockmyer
Tags: #detective, #hardboiied, #kansas city, #mystery
Book #2 in the Z-Detective Series
John G. Stockmyer
Copyright 2010 John G. Stockmyer
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Cover Art: Ronald L. Brink
Ronald L. Brink, a self-taught artist and
illustrator, has been drawing and painting most of his adult life.
Watercolor is his medium of choice. He has illustrated the covers
of several published works. His work was chosen for the President's
Christmas card at William Jewell College for six years. He has
created over 40 paintings for the College; most of them for clients
and has sold many works of pets and homes. He has taught at Maple
Woods Community College in Kansas City for over 40 years. His works
are displayed annually at the on-campus gallery. Brink received a
B.A. degree from Missouri Valley College in 1964; an M.A. degree in
1967 from the University of Denver; and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and
Instruction from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1983. He
served as Chair of the Communications Division at Maple Woods from
1990-1998. He resides in Kansas City.
Ebook Conversion: John L. Stockmyer
John L. Stockmyer is an Associate Professor
of Marketing at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New
Mexico. In his spare time, he dabbles in ecommerce, audio-book
production and eBook design. He is also an avid disc golfer. His
current ambition is to help talented "undiscovered" authors (like
his dad) find an audience through the use of non-traditional media
and innovative technology. Thank you for helping us shake up the
* * * * *
The time: 1990.
The place: Kansas City, Missouri.
* * * * *
Bob Zapolska -- Big Bob Z
to his friends back in high school -- bent down the corner of the
page and put aside the latest paperback: John Lutz
. Z's eyes had
begun to fuzz up anyway. Getting older would do that to
Time to eat the "luncheon" peanut
butter and jelly sandwich he'd brought from home. Peanut butter and
jelly for breakfast; peanut butter for dinner; peanut butter for
supper. Until he collected on another case.
Using both hands, Z lifted
his left leg off his scabby desk and eased it to the floor, his
stiff knee giving him a twinge when his heel bumped down. Never be
any better, his doctor said. Would only get worse, his
(as he called
) could read other people pretty well -- a life-prolonging
skill in the P.I. business.
No sense complaining, though.
Considering the meager rent Z paid for this "two-holer" of an
office at the cheap end of Chouteau, he couldn't expect air
conditioning that would overwhelm the serious heat of Kansas City
at the end of June.
To be completely honest, the Bob
Zapolska Detective Agency was little more than an ad in the Yellow
Bob Zapolska Detective Agency: Quick,
Inexpensive. Results Guaranteed.
Z hoped no one noticed his ad made no
mention of his being licensed.
With a sigh, Z dug the aspirin bottle
out of his pants pocket, unscrewed the cap and shook a satisfying
number of pills into his big, blunt hand; palmed them in his mouth;
chewed them up and gulped down the sour, acid-tasting grit. At
first, Z had needed water to down that many aspirin. But that was
... too many ... years ago.
Waiting for the pills to take effect,
Z used the time to wipe the sweat out of the cracks in his
While he was taking a break, he
fingered the bullet scar in his chest. Something Susan didn't like
him to do. Probably because she thought he did that to make her
feel guilty because he'd taken the bullet meant for her.
Z poked the depression again to
demonstrate he wasn't a pussy-whip. At least, when Susan wasn't
Z's Mother wouldn't have
liked him using language like "pussy-whip," his Mom not even
wanting him to
"bad words." Alive or dead, a man's mother lived forever,
just behind his eyes.
It was then that Z heard a startling
sound! -- someone knocking on the outer office door -- Z so
surprised he lurched out of his chair without thinking .... to find
himself sprawled painfully on the thin carpeted floor beside his
Cursing inwardly, holding
his trick knee with both hands, Z was treated to another,
knock, the sound so unfamiliar because Z
had walk-in trade
Finding that nothing was broken in the
fall, grabbing the end of the desk, Z pried himself up on his good
Another knock, considerably
Testing his left leg, confident the
knee would hold if he didn't ask it to do too much, Z began
shuffling around the desk, past the empty file cabinets to either
side, through the arch divider to flank his "secretary's" desk in
the outer cubicle.
At the front in time to hear a
frustrated fourth knock, Z opened the door to find ....
Susan. A dream, with glorious black hair and legs so long
they could grip a man with the power of an anaconda! Susan, in a
white linen dress that covered too much leg, but showed off the
rest of ....
Z knew he was grinning like an
But why was she here? Susan rarely
came to Z's office, and certainly not during weekdays when she was
Stepping back so Susan
could enter, he was also happy to see the
side of her as she went
She turned. Frowned prettily. "Z, I
know I said I could come over tomorrow night, but something on the
job's come up." Susan worked for Screw-'em-to-the-Wall
"Sorry," Susan purred, stepping
forward to put her arms around him. "I don't know what it is, but
it's big. I've got to be there to take notes. Very hush-hush." She
smiled up at him.
"I'll make it up to you. I promise,"
Susan pleaded, strengthening her pledge by tightening her arms into
a hug, at the same time, nuzzling his neck.
"Yeah." No wonder he'd taken a bullet
for this gorgeous piece; a girl he'd stop another for. ... Any
The phone rang.
As slippery as a dream, Susan was out
of Z's arms, over to the "secretary's" desk, and lifting the
receiver. "Bob Zapolska Detective Agency." The same thing she'd
said when she'd recorded the message for the office answering
machine, Susan knowing how much better her voice sounded in person
than it did coming from the off-pitch machine. Grinning, she turned
to hand the phone to Z.
"Bob Zapolska, speaking."
"Bob, this is Hugh Calder, at Bateman
College." A pause. "Remember me?"
Of course Z remembered Calder, the
Calder case not that long ago. Anyway, who could forget the chubby
college professor; fine, sandy hair drifting down his forehead;
blue eyes magnified behind large lenses?
He'd met Dr. Calder on the
case of the murdered janitor, that case quickly turning into the
mystery of the frozen secretary,
incident leading to a search
for the Bateman ghost light, only to twist back on itself to the
discovery of the stolen Monet, dead director, and missing rental
Z could forget Hugh Calder.
"Incidentally, catch any good ghosts
lately?" Followed by a chuckle, Calder referring to the ghost light
in the window of the third-floor turret room of Bateman Hall --
Bateman Hall the oldest, ugliest building on the campus of nearby
Bateman College. The young prof had hired Z to poke around, part of
the investigation to explore the rounded tower room in hopes of
finding the source of the mysterious "Bateman ghost light," Z
discovering the room's glow was nothing but a reflection of
powerful lamps deep in the sub-basement of the moldering
In an attempt to get more "purchase"
on the source of the ghost light, Z had then shorted out the entire
Bateman College lighting system --- with unexpectedly grotesque
But ... that was another time. ... If
not another place.
"I called," Calder continued, "because
I may have a job for you. You busy at the moment?"
"No." A response that
true, Susan doing something interesting to Z's available
"So -- this is the situation. For some
years, the school's been buying up homes on the east side of the
campus. One at a time; whenever they came up for sale.
"It was probably a secret at first. To
keep people from jacking up the price." Calder hesitated to get
himself back on track. "The reason the college needs to expand is
soccer, a sport that's become so popular the college has to put in
additional playing fields. Anyway, the school's gotten all the
property it needs, has begun to tear down the old homes it owns.
But there's a snag. With only two houses left where the college
intends to put in the fields, suddenly, out of nowhere, comes a
citizen's committee to save one of the houses. Something about
preserving the old home as an historic site.
"And as if that wasn't enough, the
people in the house next door to the one in question have reported
hearing mysterious noises coming from the neighboring house at
night. Seeing lights." Calder gave his soft chuckle again. "Another
set of ghost lights made me think of you."
"Right," Z muttered,
feeling he should say
to hold up his end of the conversation. Z
things to say. It was just that he never knew when to say
Meanwhile, Susan had begun to massage
Z's neck and ... other places. If she thought he was going to try
to make her stop, she had another ....
"... shouldn't be
in the house
under discussion," Calder was saying. "Oh, maybe some pieces of old
furniture. That kind of thing. The last person to live there -- a
retired prof of the college -- died several years ago. The college,
as I understand it, has owned the house for a long time.
"Thinking of you, I talked to our new
Vice Chancellor of Incremental Augmentation Services -- that's a
flashy title for Dean in charge of new construction. Found him to
be as worried about rumors of ghosts as about the historic
preservation committee. My impression was that anything that could
be a roadblock to demolition of the last two houses will look bad
on his record.