PI John Keegan series #1
Summer, 1962. A scorching heatwave is suffocating L.A. PI John Keegan is offered a small fortune to find a beautiful woman from a set of photographs. He refuses; the job seems suspicious.
But the next day the same woman, Eve, turns up, unbidden, on his doorstep. Eve fears for her safety. She is being watched. Before Keegan knows it, someone has been killed with Keegan s own gun, and he gets sucked into a world of suspicion and betrayal where he s never quite sure where the truth lies. Before long he s the prime suspect in a murder he didn’t commit, and all the evidence seems to point in his direction.
It s almost like someone planned it that way.
(First part of) CHAPTER ONE
Monday, August 13, 1962
It was barely dawn when the little dog’s yapping put an end to Jim Keegan’s restless night of ankle-deep sleep. He pulled himself up to a sitting position on the sofa. The dog, his late mother’s Welsh Terrier, barked at him again from the living-room floor, her stubby tail wagging madly. It was time to let her out. Keegan’s mouth tasted of Irish whiskey and stale graham crackers, a vile residue of the morning’s sleepless wee hours. He’d bought the whiskey—a fifth of Jameson—last night at a liquor store on Sunset on his way up to his mother’s hilltop cottage. He’d hoped a shot of it might help him sleep once the August daytime heat finally loosened its grip. But one shot wouldn’t do it. The crackers he’d found around 2:00 a.m., rummaging in his mother’s kitchen pantry. They were behind a can of Del Monte peaches. Keegan ignored the barking dog and looked around the cottage’s small den, working the kinks out of his neck. The room was crowded with the worldly belongings of a very old woman who had spent too many years holed up here with no one but a dog for company—silver-framed photographs and delft figurines, lace doilies and countless yellowing Zane Grey pulps. The place smelled of old laundry and Luden’s cough drops, which the old lady had eaten as if it was candy. The cottage was bigger than Keegan’s own apartment down in Mid-Wilshire, but sleeping here amid his late mother’s belongings made him feel claustrophobic just the same. His mother’s terrier—the dog answered to Nora—now crouched in the center of an oval braided rug, aquiver with excitement to see Keegan finally rousing himself. She crouched low to the rug with her rump raised high, and barked at him twice more, a pair of strident, high-pitched yelps. The sound cut through Keegan’s skull like a rusty saw. “I heard you the first time,” he groaned. He rubbed his forehead and stretched his legs out under the coffee table. A twinge of pain rippled across his lower back. That’s what he got for falling asleep on his mother’s wood-framed Victorian settee again. At fifty-three, you’d think he would know better. Keegan found his Timex on the coffee table and squinted at the smudged crystal: 8:15. In her last few years, his mother had kept old-lady hours—dinner at five and bed by nine. Now, with full daylight shining behind the curtains, her dog expected to be let out. The poor thing should have been taken out hours ago. He buckled the watch on his wrist. Keegan stood—too fast—and he clutched the arm of the settee when he felt like he might black out. The heat and the whiskey and the sleepless nights were wearing him down. The Jameson bottle on the coffee table was more than half empty; he’d meant to have only a shot—two at the most—to help him sleep. He scratched the stubble on his cheek. A half of a fifth. How much was that? He couldn’t do math in his head in the best of conditions. Fractions least of all. But half of a fifth was too much, and now he was hungover. He straightened up gingerly and tested his footing. The dizziness had passed. The dog darted around the coffee table and tugged playfully at Keegan’s trouser leg. Keegan cursed and shook his leg free. “Nobody likes a morning person,” he told the dog, then he shuffled in the direction of the back door, working the aches out of his legs and willing his blood to circulate. What day was it, anyway? The dog sprinted ahead of him, claws skittering on the oak floorboards, and disappeared into the kitchen. Keegan plodded after her. The dog had been his mother’s constant companion in her final years, but his own apartment quad had rules against pets. Eventually he’d have to take out an ad in The Times classifieds or cart the poor mutt down to the Eagle Rock pound—but, hell, there were so many other raveled strands of his mother’s life left for him to knot up. Her dog would have to wait. When Keegan got to the kitchen doorway, Nora pressed her nose to the crack beneath the back door and pawed at the weather stripping. He unlocked the deadbolt and pulled the door open for her, and she rocketed down the back steps, scattering finches from the rosemary hedge. Keegan left the door standing wide and went over to rinse his face at the kitchen sink. If the forecast was right, it would be another brutally hot day, but for now the breeze that seeped in through the door felt cool. Keegan had been in a funk an entire week now. It started last Monday morning when he heard, over KNX, that Marilyn Monroe had died. He’d been sitting in the chair at The Owl Barber Shop when the announcement was made, and the news hit him like a sucker punch. He looked down at the silvery clippings gathering on the lap of the barber’s cape and felt something like a swelling in his throat. He hadn’t particularly liked the woman—in truth, he’d only seen two or three of her movies—but he’d glimpsed her once, or so he thought, getting out of a black Fleetwood in the alley behind the Formosa Café. He’d been waiting in a line of cars to turn onto Santa Monica Boulevard when she caught his eye. She wore beige slacks and a black turtleneck. He caught sight of her face, then, with the turn of her head, that platinum sweep of hair. She disappeared inside, followed by an older man in a pinstripe suit, and the door had closed behind them. That perfect face. Just the briefest glimpse of it. Keegan didn’t tell a soul, but he’d felt oddly buoyant the rest of that day. The news that Marilyn was gone—and, a day or two later, that she’d likely taken her own life—was a trapdoor he’d fallen through. He wasn’t stupid. He knew, on some level, that it was his own mother he was grieving; she’d died the Tuesday before, and it had taken him a while to get clear of the numb, mechanical days leading up to her funeral—days full of phone calls and visits and countless small decisions about what the old woman would have wanted. The grief had hit him late, he supposed, in the form of a movie star and a bottle of Nembutal—like the sonic boom that rattled the windowpanes after the jet was already out of sight. Keegan dried his face on a dish towel and went to his mother’s wall phone by the refrigerator—his phone now, he reminded himself. He dialed the number of his office downtown. While the phone rang, he pulled a chair from the kitchen table and dropped into it, taking the weight off his knees. Mrs. Dodd, his secretary, had kept the office open all last week while Keegan crisscrossed the city, running down all his mother’s lapses and loose ends. Shit. He still hadn’t ordered a headstone.
Thank you, Paul Buchanan and Legend Press
About the author
Paul Buchanan earned a Master of Professional Writing degree from the University of Southern California and an MFA in fiction writing from Chapman University. He teaches and writes in the Los Angeles area.
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