Sample Chapter: Herr Schnoodle & McBee
Chapter 1 ~
garbage cans, Alexander McBee climbed up on the dividing
fence, and dropped, bent over, breathing hard.
pounded. He felt the exertion in every muscle of his body.
“Barely forty and you’re unfit as hell,” he muttered
when his breath caught up with him again. He didn’t think
of himself as lazy. He just didn’t believe in sweat.
first case in a month and already screwing up, but what the
hey ... he was trying, wasn’t he?
jerk! You tailing me?” The hoarse whisper sounded
alarmingly close to his ear.
pivoted, ready to get in a few licks until he recognized the
voice of the sleazy bookie he had followed for days. So much
I’m following you.”
was hard slowing his gasps to somewhere near normal, noting
the other fellow was not even breathing hard.
the hell for?” Blackjack snarled. “I paid you a deposit
and you screwed up the big bucks. You were supposed to watch
Marie, not me, you jerk!”
eye work could get complicated. When had he decided to
switch from shadowing Marie to watching her husband?
off the name calling,” Mac said with what he liked to
think of as cold menace in his voice. When he finally
managed to straighten up he stood at least a head taller
than this creep. A definite advantage. The optimism didn’t
Herr Schnoodle & McBee
flexed his arms. A switchblade fell into a waiting palm. The
man tapped it lightly against the side of his own cheek in a
calculated gesture of intimidation.
asked a question. Why follow me?”
fumbled in his jacket pocket, drawing out a pack of photos,
extending them without speaking.
street noises funneled into the alley, but Mac’s ears
closed as if in a vacuum. The only sound coming his way was
Blackjack shuffling the photos.
a loud squalling tore the air between the two men and they
both jumped. Mac looked down to see if he still had his
socks and loafers on. Both men grinned
self-consciously as the cats quarreled in the
this all about?” Blackjack hit the pictures with the flat
of his blade.
swallowed and tried to tower over the fellow. He decided
towering was not easy with a switchblade close to your face.
He dropped back on his heels and forced himself to relax.
means the cops have all the evidence they need to bust you
for aggravated assault. I took the shots the last time you
beat up Marie—and got statements from the neighbors. If
that won’t do it, I know about Babette, your tootsie you
got set up on the other side of the city. Marie’s going to
take you to court and you’ll lose everything but your
Fruit of the Looms.”
Blackjack’s gravelly voice rose an octave in outraged
disbelief. “Tootsie? Are you in some kind of time warp or
studied the ground a moment. Maybe he should quit watching
those old detective movies on late night TV. He thought
they’d help him get a feel for this profession.
Herr Schnoodle & McBee
You’re missing the point.”
scorn progressed to a mask of hostility.
you’re a dirty dealing double crosser. Marie’s messing
around on me. Everyone on the street knows that. I hired you
Mac interrupted the tirade before the little man could build
up a head of steam. Where short tempers were the norm, the
neighborhood regarded Blackjack’s awesome temper with
bookie’s narrow, pale face showed puzzlement. “But why?
I paid good.”
well—here’s your money.” Mac extended a handful of
bills, mostly singles, hoping Blackjack wouldn’t bother
save it for your old age if you’re lucky enough to have
one.” Blackjack muttered with uncharacteristic generosity.
“Just answer my question. Why?”
shrugged, not sure what to answer and waited, expression
deserved something better than this worm, for sure. She had
a boyfriend, true enough, a legless Nam vet who painted
pictures. Weeks ago, he’d watched them together as she
wheeled him through the park. Their devotion was
had warned them of Blackjack’s suspicions. He recalled the
thrill of pulling the roll of thirty-five millimeter film out of his camera and
tossing it in the nearby litter can. He had seen that
dramatic gesture at least a hundred times in the late movies
and had always wanted to do it.
raised his arm and the knife slid back into his sleeve. Mac
wondered what a good sneeze would do to his sweat glands
with the sharp end pointed up like that.
Herr Schnoodle & McBee
I don’t give a damn what Marie does,” Blackjack snarled.
“She’s lousy in bed, anyway. I’m heading for Vegas
tomorrow. Make sure our paths don’t cross again—jerk!”
the wiry, thin man saunter off, Mac considered his
evaporated fee. Owning a license—reading “Alexander
McBee, Private Investigator”—hadn’t put many groceries
on the table so far.
problem started when he flew into the face of family
tradition to become a tax accountant after college. He
should have given up and joined the police force as his
father and grandfather expected he would do. Call it
stubborn, call it over-reacting, rebelling was the most
important thing in his life at the time.
about shooting yourself in the foot—he detested working
with figures. He still hated to admit he’d chosen the
profession his father would oppose the most.
should be tooling around in a fancy car, preferably a shiny
red convertible—strictly low profile, of course. He should
have nubile lovelies standing in line for his attention.
Excitement should lurk in every corner. Damn it, he’d
counted on it
happening! He watched reruns of
Magnum over and over
to capture that Mr. Cool persona.
* * * * *
late afternoon turned to dusk as McBee ambled along the
littered streets. In absentminded distaste, he kicked away
the blowing papers that clung to his trousers. Last week a
paper loaded with squiggly jelly from the donut cart had
landed against his leg. He couldn’t afford another
he passed shopkeepers in front of their stores, sometimes
they nodded, but none spoke to him. McBee’s glance
flickered into a doorway and took in the snoozing wino, his
thoughts not registering the details. Was he invisible like
Sometimes he had the feeling he’d been
invisible all his life. People saw him, spoke to him
sometimes—but did anyone ever see beyond his baby blues?
He didn’t think so. His thoughts carried him beyond his
usual walk and toward the docks, unmindful of the dark
corners with suspicious lumps of humanity lying along the
wharf. Spaced out with drugs or liquor, they too were
untouched by his presence. He felt lulled by the lap-lap of
the murky water as he kicked at a stray can to break the
Herr Schnoodle & McBee
chugged along in slow motion. This wasn’t how it should
be. Sure, he was better off than them. He watched a
particularly repulsive bum cradling a bottle of dago red as
if it were his only friend in the world.
what the hey—that wasn’t a fair comparison. McBee had
poured his body and soul into this PI business and it was
turning sour on him. He was running out of options.
made a low whine as the water slapped louder against the
side of the barnacle-encrusted pier.
took two neatly folded paper towels from his back pocket and
laid them on the dock before he knelt and peered over the
side. From the fog-shrouded street light he could barely
make out a form in the flotsam and jetsam. He smiled at the
words springing into his mind. Flotsam and jetsam. In high
school they were his two favorite words for weeks until his
family banned him from ever saying them again in the house.
dark mass in the water struggled weakly. A rat? Nope. At
least he hoped never to see a rat that big. He bent to get a
Lord! It was a dog!
first instinct was to turn away. He was sure he’d always
been allergic to any creature with fur. They could make him
sneeze or break out in ugly hives. If the animal still had
any life left, it probably carried bubonic plague from all
that dirty water. Mac imagined he saw the whites of the
dog’s eyes move. He turned away and then sighed.
he should haul the beast up and let it expire in peace.
Nothing should have to die in water so thick you could dig
with a shovel.
down into the slime, Mac grabbed a handful of fur. His nose
clogged with the stench of pollution.
The damned animal weighed a ton as he hauled it in and
dumped it on the dock. He glanced down at his once neat
suit. What a mess. First the jelly donuts, now this. So much
for wearing a suit and tie. He should have ignored that
particular suggestion from the PI correspondence school’s
list of commandments. It hadn’t hurt Magnum to run around
in tight jeans and baggy bright shirts.
examined the soggy heap of fur on the dock with distaste
tempered with revulsion. It looked like a huge porcupine
with bits of floating debris and grease stuck to its coat.
Mac bent closer, seeing the heavy rope wrapped around its
neck. No damn wonder the dog felt heavy.
He poked the animal with the toe of his shoe,
hoping it was beyond caring. No such luck. The tail flopped
weakly, spraying a greasy film over the tops of his shoes
and the one trouser leg still clean. With that effort
expended, the dog’s head fell back and its eyes closed in