I mean the characters in Following the Lead, next in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. As those who have read my books know, I have many who appear in every or nearly every book: Jack, the owner of the Rooster and Isabel’s love interest, of course.; the Old Farts; Annette aka Tough Cookie; the Beaumont brothers. Even ex-police chief Jim Hawthorne aka Thorny, an appropriate name because he’s a thorn in Isabel’s side, lingers in this series.
But fresh blood is welcome. And that’s what happens in each book, including this one, which had a Nov. 3 release.
First, a refresher of Following the Lead’s plot: Isabel’s old boss, Lin Pierce was a boy when his baby sister was abducted from the front yard and never found. He was supposed to be watching her but he got distracted. Lin hopes Isabel can bring closure and perhaps find his sister.
So who’s and what’s new? We do get see a different side to Lin, who hired Isabel in the second book at the ridiculous rate of a buck a day. But it was an arrangement that was OK because Isabel had to work for a licensed P.I. for three years before she could strike out on her own. In Following the Lead, we meet Lin, the distraught and hopeful brother.
We also get to know his parents, Ben and Jessica Pierce. Ben we know under his alias, the Bald Old Fart. The abduction of their daughter severed that marriage. Ben also had issues with his son, blaming him and his ex-wife for the baby’s abduction. But he goes along with Isabel taking on this case because he knows her from her visits to the backroom of the general store where the Old Farts gather.
Jessica is less enthused. A musician, at the time she was giving a lesson to a student who would later go onto to be a well-known pianist. She is a bit uneasy about Isabel’s line of questioning, actually more than that, but I won’t spoil what happens there.
Then, there is the well-known musician, Tim Robert Todd. He’s retired now and happens to live in Caulfield near Gary and Larry Beaumont. Isabel believes he’s key to the investigation but has a hard time meeting him. For much of the book, his reputation precedes him, but that changes dramatically.
Then, there’s the person responsible for stealing Baby Elizabeth, as she became to be known. Like the musician Tim Todd, they are part of this mystery’s unfolding. Of course, there are sources Isabel meets like two former neighbors.
Here’s an excerpt. Isabel and her mother, her partner in solving crimes, are meeting with Lin Pierce at his home. He reveals his father is Ben Pierce, aka the Bald Old Fart and the strife his sister’s abduction created for the family.
And now that Lin has shared that information, I see the family resemblance in the facial features between the two men although Lin still has some hair and the Bald Old Fart, one of the older members of the group, is heavier. I wonder if he has an inkling his son wants me to pursue this case because he was oddly quiet during my last visit to the store’s backroom. I don’t go every week, just when I need their help with a case or for a little local levity.
“I do know your father. Is he aware you want to solve this case about your sister?”
“Let’s say my father and I aren’t very close, but I told him. I felt I had to. Besides, he may have useful info he hasn’t shared with me. At first, Dad wasn’t happy about it, but he changed his mind when I told him it would be you. He said he was impressed how you handled your other cases.”
“That’s nice of him.”
“Oh, and just so you know, I paid for one of the services where they use your DNA to tell you about your ancestors.” He frowns. “That didn’t turn up any long lost family members or even the ones I have. But it was worth a shot.”
“Glad you told us that,” I say. “Ma?”
As planned, I let my mother ask a few questions. She reminds him we would need a list of other persons of interest. It gives me the opportunity to think about the Bald Old Fart and how I should handle him. Certainly, the other Old Farts must know his back story since they all grew up in the hilltowns. The Bald Old Fart is married to a local gal, his second wife it seems. He taught math at a local high school and is retired like his backroom pals. If my memory serves me better, I believe my son, Alex, the engineer had him in class. Maybe even my daughter, Ruth. Matt, the heavy equipment operator, didn’t as he went to a vocational high school. I will have to quiz them the next time we are together although Ruth won’t like it that I took another case. She worries about my safety too much. Alex and Matt? They actually think it’s cool their mother is a P.I. Thank you, boys.
“That must have been hard on you as a young boy,” I hear my mother say. “I take it your parents didn’t have another child.”
“No, they didn’t. My father didn’t when he got remarried. My mother never married again. Once was enough. And, yes, it was hard on me as a kid. Really hard.” He clears his throat. “I heard it over and over from my father. Why did I have to leave my sister to go chase a stupid dog? Why didn’t I check with my mother to make sure she had her? Why did I make a big fuss when she asked me to watch her? The list goes on. I tell myself I was only eleven. Just a boy. Dad has tried to make it up to me in his way. Sometimes it helps.” He looks at me directly. “Here’s why I am hiring you. I want to know for sure what happened to my sister. If she’s alive, I want to meet her, to tell her about her real family. If she isn’t, I want to grieve for her like a brother would.”
“You mention in your notes about meeting a woman you thought could be your sister. I saw the photo you took of the woman at Luella’s. But I couldn’t make out her face very well.”
“Unfortunately, that was the best I could do under the circumstances. Plus, it was a piece of crap phone.”
My mother speaks, “What features did she share with your mother?”
“The eyes definitely. One was blue and the other brown, a trait on my mother’s side that unfortunately I didn’t inherit. And the long nose. She had what I would call an elegant face. When you meet my mother, you will understand.”
As I jot down that detail, I have to ask the all-important question.
“Does your mother know that you want to hire me to investigate this case?”
“Yes, we’ve talked it over. She’s fine with it.” He pauses. “But she wants to meet you and your mother alone the first time without me. I understand. I believe she’ll be more comfortable talking with you than me. Maybe there are things she doesn’t want me to know. I’ve tried in the past but she pushed me aside. Too much pain, I believe. I was surprised she didn’t resist when I brought it up recently. She, of course, knew of your success. That won her over.”
“When can we meet her?”
“She mentioned Wednesday. I’ll give you her number before you leave, so you can set up a time.”
I glance at my mother, who gives me a nod. A day of surprises for certain.
“Yes, that would work for us.”
“I will let her know.” He finishes his glass of water. “So, how would you two like to go for a ride? I’d like to show you my old neighborhood.”
“Please do,” I say. “I did bring a copy of that map you gave me.”
“Too bad someone with your brains wasn’t investigating this case when it happened.”
My mother speaks up.
“Yes, it is.”
LINK: Thank you for those readers who have already downloaded Following the Lead. Here is the link to buy it on Amazon: https://mybook.to/followingthelead Paperbacks will be out soon.
PHOTO ABOVE: Saw this birdhouse on a recent walk. The hole wasn’t big enough for whatever bird wanted to nest there so it did a renovation.