from Behind the Redwood Door,
by John M. Daniel Blue Heron is the sheriff of Jefferson County, the smallest county in California. It’s so small most people haven’t heard of it, and it’s on the rugged, rocky coast up north in Redwood Country, between the Pacific Ocean and the skyline of the Jefferson Alps range. Blue Heron, a member of the Steelhead Tribe, has been Sheriff since the early 1990s, and the case he remembers best happened back in the summer of 1999.
Sheriff Heron, tell us about that case. What made this case so special?
Call me Blue. Everybody around here does. Well, to start with it was a clear-cut case of
cold-blooded murder, plain and simple, except the cut wasn’t clear, it was ugly; and the case wasn’t simple, it was a jar of black widows. Okay, so Pete Thayer, the editor of the Jefferson Nickel
back when it was a political weekly with a radical slant, got himself stabbed in the throat with a kitchen knife next to the Dumpster out back of the Redwood
Door tavern. Gloria, she owns the Redwood Door, called me and I was over there like a jackrabbit, my cherry-top pulsing like the heart of an elk in rut.
There he was, poor Pete, slumped down against the brick wall, looking more surprised than he looked dead. But he was dead, all right. And parked there, not twenty feet from the body, was Seamus Connolly’s dark blue BMW.
River Webster wanted me to haul old Seamus in and string him up at dawn. Not only because Pete was River’s lover, but also because Seamus was the publisher and editor of the Jefferson Republican,
and let’s just say the two newspapers didn’t see quite eye to
eye. But mainly, let’s face it, those Connollys and those Websters have hated each other since day one, and day one was way over a hundred years ago. What made the case so hard to solve?
Well, of course I was just itching to book old Seamus, even if it was just for illegal parking, but turns out he had an alibi, seeing as how he was over in Redding with his girlfriend that night. My next suspect was Seamus’s teenage son, Chunky, a hell-raiser if there ever was one, but Chunky had an alibi, too. Then I was taken off the case. Taken off the case? But aren’t you the sheriff?
Yes, but the damn powers that be decided this was a city crime, not a county crime, so they—namely Seamus Connolly and his cronies, who do their drinking over at the Wildcat Saloon—gave the case to Wayne Marvin, the total incompetent chief of police. What an idiot. He charged River Webster with the murder, of all people. That didn’t stick either of course.
Are you saying you didn’t solve the case?
I’m not saying that. I got involved when there were more crimes involved, related crimes, outside the city limits. Up in the Jefferson Alps. Showdown time. Did anyone outside your department, or outside law enforcement, help you solve the case?
Well, River badgered me a lot, and of course I put up with a lot of badgering when it was River doing it. I still do. And then there was Guy Mallon. Him and his wife Carol own the used booktore in town. Nice folks, but that Guy has a talent for stepping in piles of trouble. Stubborn and touchy, you know what I mean? I guess a lot of short guys are like that. They’ve had to put up with a lot of teasing all their life, and Guy was shorter than
most. Like Mickey Rooney, Danny DeVito, that kind of short. That kind of stubborn, too. Wouldn’t let go. Seemed to love trouble. He was a pain in the butt, is what he was, but I got to admit, I never could have brung the murderer to justice if it weren’t for that little shrimp. In fact, weren’t for him I’d be one dead sheriff. Did this case affect your personal life in any way?
Oh lordy, yes. The good news is I lost forty pounds as a direct result of the case.And the bad news?
I can’t drink coffee anymore. I haven’t had a cup of coffee in over twelve years. Not even decaf. I suppose that’s not such a bad thing, but can you imagine an Indian sheriff sipping camomile tea?Thank you for being with us today, Blue. Congratulations on your weight loss.
John M. Daniel is a freelance editor and writer. He has published dozens of stories in literary magazines and is the author of ten published books, including three mystery
novels: Play Melancholy Baby, The Poet’s Funeral, and Vanity Fire. He and his wife, Susan, own a small-press publishing company in Humboldt County,California, where they live with their wise cat companion,Warren.
Behind the Redwood Door is the third Guy Mallon mystery and is published by Oak Tree Press: http://www.oaktreebooks.com/. You can order direct from the publisher, or ask your local independent bookstore to order it for you. The book can also be ordered online from Amazon or Barnes& Noble. For an autographed copy, see ordering instructions on John’s website: http://www.danielpublishing.com/jmd/index.html.
from Jambalaya Justice
by Holli Castillo We have with us today Anthony Chapetti, Shep to his friends, a detective in the Special Investigations Division in the Sixth District of the New Orleans Police Department. For the last few years, he's worked homicides, except for a recent identity theft. Also joining us is Detective Monte Carlson, also of the Sixth District SID. While the other SID detectives focus primarily on homicides, Monte has an ear to the street and deals with narcotics, conducting undercover drug buys.
Shep, tell us about this case.
This case was big because it involved the captain’s daughter, a prosecutor named Ryan Murphy, who also happens to be my girlfriend. Someone was writing checks from the account of one of Ryan’s friends, another prosecutor who was presumed dead a few months ago. Everyone thinks the girl was murdered, but her body was never found,
complicating what might have been an ordinary NSF check case. While I don’t necessarily believe she’s still alive, I do know one hundred percent that dead people don’t write checks. Monte, what made the case so special?
Dawg, they all pretty special. At first, this one wasn’t nothing but me waiting around for some big-time dealer about to drop a bunch of Ecstasy. The deal was going down at the Marquis de Sade, a club in a neighborhood where some hookers had been murdered, and the dealer kept putting me off. This case got personal when Ryan showed up at the club, looking for somebody who might know a little something-something about the murders. She was tight with one of the vics, and it had her kind of messed up. Meanwhile, she’s keeping all this from Chapetti, which tells me things ain’t as great with the two of them as he might want folks to believe, especially me. The truth is, if Ryan’s daddy, our captain, didn’t get a say in who she settles down with, she’d probably be with me. But my light skin ain’t light enough for the captain, who can’t get past the fact that I’m black and not
Catholic. Captain’s strictly old school. Not that it stopped Ryan in the past. She’s been known to break a rule or two--when it suits her. What made the case hard to solve? Shep:
There were a few things. I was always one step behind, and the information I was getting didn’t clear things up in the least. None of the store clerks could give me a solid identification either. But the biggest hindrance was I had to work with a partner, Nina, a woman I had an extremely brief relationship with--one night-- a long time ago, way before Ryan. The D.A. and the captain thought it was a good idea for the two of us to work the case together. Nina was a D.A. investigator in the economic crimes unit, and made my life difficult every step of the way on this investigation. Plus I think she might have been hitting on me, trying to get back together. And then there was the captain, who didn’t want Ryan knowing anything about the case. I wasn’t comfortable lying to Ryan, but I have to follow Captain Murphy’s orders. I also had to keep working my regular homicides the whole time, which left me little time for anything else. And people were talking about my late hours with Nina. When it looked like there was a chance Ryan could be in danger, I had to make a choice between what the captain wanted and what I thought was the right thing to do. It didn’t go well. Monte:
My dealer wouldn’t show. I never met the dude up close and personal before, so I didn’t even know who to look for. Every dealer nowadays has a prepaid cell phone they text with, ‘cause they think it’s less likely they gonna be caught if they text about the deal
instead of meet face to face or talk on the phone. Then there was Ryan, all up in my grill at the club at night. She was cool and all and didn’t blow my cover, but I had to watch her back while I was trying to set up my deal and bust the dealer. That girl’s a firecracker, and if somebody loses trouble, she’ll be the one to find it. And no way I was
letting anything bad happen to her. I’d kill my deal first. And it ain’t because her daddy’s my boss. I thought I had everything under control when just as my deal was about to go down, it all hit the fan and things went south like you wouldn’t believe. Did anyone else help you solve this case? Shep:
Not really. Nina only slowed me down and made my job harder. She was a political hire, and had no investigative experience, so she was constantly screwing things up. Sometimes I think she messed up on purpose, just to spite me. I think she would have sold her soul to the devil to solve the case before me, which was never going to happen. It seemed most of the tips I got just led to more paperwork, and more trouble from Nina. Give me a good gang or drug murder any day of the week. Monte:
I ain’t a big fan of relying on other po-po to do my job. Sometimes, decisions gotta be made that ain’t exactly in keeping with department policies, and I don’t need nobody looking over my shoulder when I’m in the decision-making process. I did have backup outside, not my choice, and they just ended up getting in my way, stopping me from doing what I really wanted to do to my suspect when the time came. Lucky for him. I got a serious problem with anyone who gets his jollies hurting women. Shep, has this case affected your personal life in any way?
Big time. Just when I thought the case was solved and the danger was over, my worst
fear came true. By the end, there were more than a few dead bodies. Things aren’t going to be the same for a lot of people, including me. What about you, Monte? Has this affected your personal life?
I’m ‘a have to pass on that one for now, dawg. I guess we’ll see. Thank you, Shep and Monte, for being with us today. We wish you well with your cases and hope you can keep Ryan from finding any more trouble. Holli Castillo
is an appellate public defender and former New Orleans prosecutor. Jambalaya Justice,
the second in the Crescent City Mystery series, is scheduled for release July, 2011 by Oak Tree Press. For more information or to contact her, please visit www.hollicastillo.com
, or www.jambalayajustice.com