Deborah Boydston Deborah Boydston
Recommendations: 45

This is the only line that confused me briefly was "The only natural hair that black is found on bears." did you mean ..."The only natural hair that's black is found on bears." or "The only natural hair that is black is found on bears."

Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

No, the only natural hair that black is found on bears means that her hair was not natural. It was dyed black.

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Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Chapter One "Death and Deep Waters"

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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

This is Chapter One, a sampling of what my novel "Death and Deep Waters" is all about.  Hope you enjoy it.


       It was one of those days when I was so bored I could have jumped for joy at the opportunity to play a game of tiddlywinks.  I had drawn circles, triangles, cartoon characters, animals, and unnamed figures on the calendar of my desk.  Free Cell on the computer seemed like a six by eight cell.   I had stared at the phone for at least ten hours between eight and ten that morning.
         After returning from a trip to Arizona I had taken some time off to relax and get my mind back in the right place, away from the sound a 38 slug makes when it smacks in to a man’s skull.
       Oddly, I noticed that I had drawn the face of a man with one eye missing, the eye that the bullet from the 38 had blown away.  
       I grimaced and ripped the sheet from the calendar, made a ball of it and tossed it towards the wastebasket in the corner of my small office.  It ricocheted off the two walls and settled into the metal basket with a sound like the name of a Chinese entrée.  Ming Pow!
       Then the door opened.  
       My senses were overcome by the perfume she wore.  It reminded me of funeral homes.  “Death Warmed Over” would have been an appropriate name.  
       The woman was old.  Her face didn’t have wrinkles; it had waves.  Her makeup was expertly applied, but ten pounds of makeup could not disguise the age.  Her hair was the blackest I’ve ever seen, darker than night, shinier than polished coal.  The only natural hair that black is found on bears.
       I let my eyes travel down from the dark hair.  Her body was trim, not at all related to the age of the face.  She wore a black silky blouse tucked into a black, not so silky skirt.  Black fishnet stockings covered nicely shaped legs that tapered and disappeared into black, low-heeled shoes.  
       “Mister Yardley?”
       “Yes, Ma’am,” I said.
       That’s me!  Kip Yardley, Private Detective.  All five feet eleven inches and one hundred and seventy five pounds of me.  
       My name was on the door, “Kip Yardley Inquiries” and I was the only person in the room.  The room was my office, with one desk, two chairs and a small oak filing cabinet.  My computer sat on the edge of the desk; its screen displayed an unfinished game of Free Cell left by a very bored PI
       So it wasn’t hard to guess my name, I thought.  I wonder what brings this old woman to my humble abode?  But whatever it is, I’ll take it, I told myself.  I need to get out of here and get busy.  I need the money.
       “I’m Dorothy Underwood,” the old lady said, extending a black-gloved hand at the end of a cloud white arm, the motion causing a waft of the perfume to drift around me, almost making me gag.  She smelled like rotting gardenias.
       “Kip Yardley, at your service,” I said.
       “Mister Yardley, I have a proposal for you that pays well and will be the most difficult task you have encountered since opening your detective office.”      
       Now that caught my ear!
       “Please, Mrs. Underwood,” I said. “Have a seat.”
       “Thank you,” she said and sat across from me in a straight-backed overstuffed chair I had purchased at a second hand furniture store for fifty bucks.
              “I want you to find the remains of my late husband,” she said.  “He was shot down over a small South Pacific island in the war.”
       My mind immediately told me that it had to be WW II.  But from the looks of her, it might have been WW I.  Now, Yardley, I told myself, get your mind on things.  She couldn’t be that old.  And the First World War wasn’t fought from small South Pacific islands.
       “You want me to find his remains?” I asked.
       “Yes,” she said.  “Is that so unusual?”
       “I’m just curious,” I said.  “He was shot down in the Second World War and you have waited until now to try to find his body?”      
       “I didn’t have the resources to finance such a task at that time,” she said.  “Do you know who I am?”      
       “You just told me, you are Dorothy Underwood.”
       “I am the widow of the late Robert Underwood, founder of RUFF, Robert Underwood Furniture Factories.”
       I thought about that a minute.  I had heard of Underwood Furniture.   Robert Underwood had returned from the South Pacific at the end of the Second World War and started building furniture in his garage in Santa Monica.  He had built all of the furniture for his own house and attended college on the G.I. bill.  Neighbors had liked the furniture and asked him to build different items for them.  He worked at night and charged a minimal price.  Lumber was cheap and his labor was a thing of pleasure to him, so he soon rented a building near the Santa Monica airport and bought a few tools and started making more furniture.
He didn’t try to please the world.   His furniture was unfinished.  He let his customers paint it to match their needs.  If the furniture required covering and stuffing, he would provide stuffing imported from the Philippines and covering from catalogs, but he let the customer pick their own and he would finish it.  
       The business had grown as the LA area grew.  It expanded proportional to the expansion of the city.  
       By the late sixties RUFF had four factories and over one hundred employees.   He had acquired contracts with most of the major Hollywood studios to build furniture for their sets.  He could copy the styles from any year in history, and the studios were glad to pay top dollar for his wares.
       “You do know who Robert Underwood is?” she asked.
       My mind snapped back to the office and the old lady who sat before me.  She had used the present tense, as if he were still alive.
       “Yes, I know who you are, now,” I said.  “I’m sorry I did not recognize the name at first.”
       “How does a quarter of a million dollars sound to you?” she asked. 2 comments

      I nearly fell off of my chair.  A quarter of a million?  I wasn’t averaging fifty grand a year and she’s offering a quarter of a million? How does it sound?  It sounded like angels singing to me.  The Boston Philharmonic.  Eddie Arnold singing, “Welcome to My World.”  The Beatles singing, “Hey Jude.”  All of my favorite songs being sung by all of my favorite singers rattling through my head like a Disney Fantasia recording.  
       “A quarter of a million?”
       “Yes, Mister Yardley.  If you are successful in recovering my husband’s remains, I will pay you a quarter of a million dollars.”      
       “But wait a second,” I said.  Instantly the music stopped.  She had just told me that she was Robert Underwood’s widow.  I knew that he had died only a month or so ago and no doubt was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Santa Monica.  There was a deafening silence in the air.  Where’d the Beatles go?  Where’s Eddy Arnold when you need him?  Was I no longer welcome in his world?
       “Your husband just died a month ago,” I said.  My mind hadn’t made a connection yet to the husband who was shot down over a tiny island in the South Pacific.
       “It isn’t his remains I’m seeking,” she said.  “Mister Underwood was my second husband.  It is the remains of Henry Townsend that I want you to find.”
       “Oh,” I said,  “I see.”  I also heard.  I heard Eddy singing again, and the Boston Pops.  Fantasia!
       Snap out of it, Yardley, I told myself.  The boredom and humdrums must have affected my mind.  I needed this job and I wanted the quarter of a million.  Pay attention, Yardley.  Get this straight.
       Since my divorce I had suffered a little financially.  There was a period of almost a year when one Banquet TV dinner each day was my sustenance.   Hunger and I were old buddies.  I was so broke that when I had a picnic the ants brought their own food.
  I had made a few dollars on the last case in Arizona.  But things weren’t good.  I had invested in renting this office in Santa Monica and although it was only one room and a half bath, the rent was enough to feed Cox’s Army.  I had expected that the publicity from the Arizona case would bring people flocking to my door.  The only people who came were beachgoers wanting to use my restroom.
       To say things were tight was an understatement.  My old Chevrolet Cavalier was on its last legs.  Or tires, or whatever.  I was beginning to think that the car wouldn’t roll, it would tiptoe.  The brakes squealed like pigs when you applied them.  I dreamed of Corvettes, Austin Healeys, and Lincoln Continentals.  
       “Mr. Yardley?”
       “Oh, I’m sorry, Mrs. Underwood,” I said, honestly.  She had sat there patiently while my mind drifted away like sailboats on a calm sea.
       “You’ll take the assignment, then?”
       “Uh, just a sec, Mrs. Underwood,” I said.  My mind raced backward.  Something she had said was ticking away inside my skull.  I think I remembered it.  She had said “if” I recovered the remains I would be paid a quarter of a million.  I didn’t have enough money in my bank account to fly to Burbank, let alone a South Pacific Island.  
       “Mrs. Underwood, I do not have the finances to undertake a task as monumental as the one you are asking me to accomplish.  You said you would pay me if I recover your late husband’s remains.  What if I try and fail?  I can’t pay rent on this office and put food in my mouth on what gamblers refer to as ‘the come’.”
       “I’ll pay your expenses, of course,” she said.
       Ah.  Things sounded better.  Eddy Arnold sounded like Bing instead of Mickey Mouse.  The Beatles no longer sounded like crickets.
       “Would you elaborate on that?” I asked.   “My expenses may run to several hundred dollars, depending on what equipment and help I need to cover that island.”
       “You will be given one hundred thousand dollars in advance,” she said.  “You will then provide receipts for your expenses against that sum.  If you need more, you can wire or call me and I’ll see that you get it.  If you spend less, the balance will be deducted from the quarter of a million promised if the remains are found.  If you decide that the task cannot be accomplished, I will reimburse you at the rate of two hundred dollars per day for your time.”
       “Fair enough,” I said.  I rose and extended my hand.
       “I’ll put all of this in a proposal and bring it to you for your signature,” I said.  “Agreed?”
       “Certainly.” She shook my hand.  “Please take this envelope, Mr. Yardley.  In it you will find hair.  It is the hair that was removed from my former husband’s head the day he entered the Army Air Corps.  Comparing DNA samples of the hair will make a suitable identification of any remains found.  Thank you for your time, Mr. Yardley.”
       “Thank you,” I said, taking the envelope and putting it in my desk drawer.  She left without saying another word.

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