My mysteries always have a victim. And it’s Isabel Long’s mission to find out what really happened to that person.
Isabel, a longtime journalist turned P.I., focuses on solving cold cases in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. In the first, Chasing the Case, a woman had disappeared 28 years earlier. In the second, Redneck’s Revenge, Chet Waters, a junkyard owner, supposedly died in a fire because he was too drunk to get out. In Checking the Traps, the victim is a highway worker by day and a poet by night who supposedly jumped from a bridge known for suicides. And in Killing the Story, it’s the editor and co-owner of a small town newspaper who got offed walking home one winter night.
Well, now I am onto no. 5 Working the Beat, which has a Jan. 27 release. Who is the victim this time? Lucas Page, a young man, who supposedly — there’s that word again — fell into a ravine while everybody was watching a demolition derby at a local country fair. His grandmother, Shirley Dawes doesn’t believe it was an accident but no one was convinced until Isabel Long agreed to take on the case.
Shirley took in Lucas was he was just a toddler and his drug-addicted, homeless mother — Shirley’s daughter — wisely gave him up. For Shirley, it was an opportunity to make amends. Her late husband was a no-good abuser, and unfortunately she couldn’t protect her daughter and son.
Here I will let Shirley tell you about him in this scene. By coincidence Isabel and her mother are at the Titus County Fair when she approaches them. This is an excerpt from Working the Beat.
This story’s coming back to me now. I was the editor of the Daily Star then. We reported on an unattended death at the fair in a story that made the front page, and then like Shirley said, it was ruled an accident because of a brain injury, although she protested that in a story we ran, too.
“Now, I remember you, Shirley. You came to see me in the newsroom. You said you were frustrated the police didn’t seem to be looking that hard into your grandson’s case and you wanted us to do that.”
I think back and hope I treated this woman nicely.
“Yeah, I did. You said newspapers don’t do that kind of work.”
“No, not the one I worked for.”
“But I heard about what you’ve been doin’ now as a private investigator. Your last case was a doozy. Read about it in the paper.” She crooks a thumb toward Annette and her son, still talking with his admirers. “Course, there was Chet Waters. Maybe you can do what the cops couldn’t or wouldn’t do.”
“You mean find out what happened that night with your grandson.”
“Yeah. I heard you get paid for doin’ this. I wanna hear how much. I ain’t got a lot. But this is important to me. I loved my grandson. I’m the one who brought him up after his mother gave him to me. He was hangin’ around with a rough crowd in those days. Tryin’ to fit in. Here. Let me show you his picture.”
Shirley reaches for the purse on the seat beside her. The purse is vintage style, off white with a smart clasp on the top, no zippers, something my mother would use. I am guessing Shirley holds onto things. She removes a photo from her wallet and hands it to me.
“I took it at Christmas, the last one we had,” she says.
Lucas Page’s face smiles at me. He’s young, blue-eyed, and with the kind of features that would label him a good-looking guy. His most distinctive is the red hair that’s short on the sides and long enough on the top so it has a bit of curl. But back to that smile. He was happy to pose for his grandmother.
“He was a handsome young man,” I tell Shirley.
She swipes away a tear.
“Yeah, he was.”
HOW TO GET YOURS
Here is the link to Working the Beat: mybook.to/workingthebeat
ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE
That’s the snow-covered Deerfield River flowing under the Bridge of Flowers in my village of Shelburne Falls after a recent storm.