“Too Much of a Good Thing” is a soft-boiled detective novella, the ninth in the Detective Jimmy Delaney series. It has some sci-fi and fantasy elements, sort of a The Rockford Files meets The Avengers (the old BBC series, not the Marvel superheroes.)
Here’s the Blurb
Was it just too much of a good thing?
Diana’s work on the Southside Restoration has progressed to the point that only the vagrant situation is holding things back – and suddenly, they start disappearing from the streets. The unusually mild winter has resulted in an equally unusual number of homeless deaths. Jimmy’s curiosity discovers more oddities than coincidence could explain, and suspicions that Diana might be involved.
And Here’s This Week’s Excerpt
“I don’t know how those people can live with themselves,” Mary said.
“Well, I guess Mr. Carson doesn’t have to anymore,” Jimmy said.
“I wouldn’t want their life, but I wouldn’t mind the money so much.”
“You and me both.”
He wondered who Miss Eager would be sidling up to next. She would land on her feet – or her back – soon. Her type always did.
“Someone died,” Mary said.
“Well, Mr. Carson was pretty old.” Jimmy realized how Mary might take that – she was definitely no spring chicken herself. “I didn’t mean that it doesn’t matter if someone dies if they’re old. All I -”
“No – I think someone just died over there.”
They were passing Unity Park, one of the Southside’s homeless magnets, this one between 9th and 10th Avenues off of South Main. Mary pointed to a bundle of mismatched clothes that might have been a person laying on a bench facing South Main. Jimmy thought he recognized those clothes. He parked the Cuda at the curb.
Closer examination proved that it was someone Jimmy knew. Millie J. had been a park regular for quite some time, and had been an occasional informant since Jimmy had become a private investigator. Her open eyes reflected the sky; she wouldn’t be informing Jimmy again.
“How did you know she was dead?” Jimmy asked as he dialed 911.
“I picked up on her surprise when she realized it. She was disappointed that she didn’t get to spend a night in her new home.”
“What do you mean?” Jimmy asked, but before Mary said anything more, the police dispatcher picked up.
“Barnstow 911. What’s your emergency?”
“Not an emergency. I have a dead body at Unity Park.”
“I’m sending one of our cars now. Please remain there until they arrive.”
Jimmy passed the time looking at Millie from different angles to see if there were any obvious marks or wounds.
“So what did you mean about her new home?” he asked Mary.
“She was getting off the streets – had a place and everything, but she never made it up to her room.”
It was about fifteen minutes before a car pulled up. Jimmy’s old partner Al stepped out of the passenger seat.
Allison March was in her thirties, wearing a tailored blue blazer and skirt under her overcoat. Her long auburn hair was tied back. Despite her professional demeanor, Jimmy knew her too well to be unaware of how attractive she was. He had dated her once after he left the force, but that date was sadly doomed by a misunderstanding. It had been unfortunate at the time, but it was of little consequence now that Jimmy was with Diana.
Al’s partner Wayne Moon stepped out of the driver’s side. The Korean detective was in his mid forties, the white at his temples gradually infiltrating the rest of his black hair. He shook his head when he saw Jimmy.
“It figures we’d find you here, Jimmy,” Wayne said.
“Hey – I didn’t find the body this time – it was Madam Siri. I just happened to be giving her a ride.”
“Same difference,” Wayne said. “You’re always happening around dead bodies.”
“Such a shame.” Al took a couple of photos with her BlotterTab. “Millie was a sweetie.”
“That she was,” Jimmy said.
“Seventh homeless person to die this month,” Wayne said.
That surprised Jimmy. Sure, it was the near the end of February, and Barnstow winters could be brutal, but this was one of the mildest on record. Millie was no youngster, but she was a tough old bird and had weathered a lot worse times than these.
He would have asked for more information on the others who had died, but then Frank and Derrick with Removals showed up, and Mary looked uncomfortable waiting around, so they got back into the Cuda and continued driving.
“She was younger than me. It makes you think,” Mary said.
Talking death with Mary was awkward under normal circumstances, but she wasn’t usually this morose about it. Jimmy had already put his foot in it about Mr. Carson’s age, and he wasn’t sure what was safe to say here, so he said nothing.
After Jimmy returned Mary to her cats, he drove to Baker Street and parked in his reserved spot outside Kaczmarek’s. Pete Kaczmarek was serving up drinks behind his bar. The tall, muscular Pole waved as Jimmy climbed the stairs to his office.
He finished the Carson file and sent out the bill to Michael Carson. There hadn’t been much real detective work in this one; he felt funny relying on Madam Siri’s dubious talents, but a case solved was a case solved, no matter how it happened. His agreement with her was for a flat fee, but he felt like she deserved the lion’s share of the take from this one. It was a shame that he couldn’t afford to give her more.
Once he was done he brought up the tracking app on his phone. Diana and her phone were already at the estate. Over the last few months it hadn’t been often that Diana finished up business before he did, but with her work on the Southside Restoration nearing completion, she had more time for him now than when the project had first fallen into her lap.
“On my way to Gialani’s, and then to you, Babe,” he spoke into his phone. “Transmit.”
Jimmy locked up, wove his way through the early evening crowd in the bar, and back out to his Cuda. He stopped by Gialani’s Italian and picked up some calzone and pasta puttanesca, then made the drive out to the old Lewis Estate for his dinner with Diana.
They sat on barstools, facing each other at the corner of the stainless steel prep station in the kitchen. Diana’s blonde, shoulder length hair was loose, framing her intense blue eyes. She wore a lacy blue blouse and a slit skirt that showed off her killer legs.
“The Prestige is filling up, Jimmy. I don’t know how much longer we can hold that office open.”
“You know I can’t pay what it’s worth,” he said. Then, in his best Bogey, “And don’t start in about the sweetheart deal you want to give me, Sweetheart.”
Back when Raymond Lewis had still been alive – and before Pete had discovered the secret speakeasy room above the bar that was now the home of Jimmy’s Delaney Investigation Company – Jimmy had been given a bargain as they were trying to fill up the old building at the start of the Restoration. If Sharon Lewis hadn’t murdered her husband and tried to burn the place down, Jimmy might have still had his office there. But he felt funny getting the favor of near zero rent from Diana. It was bad enough people thought she was too good for him without providing them with more evidence.
“Well, I can’t fault you for being a proud man. It’s kind of quaint,” Diana said.
“If I had some real business coming in instead of these crazy head cases, I might consider it. But right now, The Prestige is too classy for me.”
He was feeling like she was too classy for him, too.
“You’re so funny,” Diana said.
“I hope you mean that in a good way.
“Always.” She smiled. “My doubting Jimmy, still unable to admit to the existence of ghosts, yet becoming a supernatural legend in his own rights.”
“Gosh, I hope that’s not really happening – I can’t have another hit on my dubious reputation. I need more stable income coming in than what they’re bringing me.”
“Well, you still have time to make up your mind. I don’t think The Prestige is really going to fill up until we do something with the Southside’s homeless problem.”
The pillars of Barnstow society occupied the northern part of town, and had successfully insulated their neighborhoods by pushing the dregs south, into the poorer, less maintained area of Barnstow. The homeless did have a home, as counterintuitive as it seemed. The bulk of the city’s homeless called either the camp under the interstate between the river and the stockyards, or one of the Southside’s parks their home. If the Southside Restoration was going to attract more tenants, there needed to be a change.
“Well, you have one less. We found Millie dead on a bench in Unity Park.”
“Millie J. She was one of the park regulars.” Jimmy waited for some sign of recognition, but Diana just took a sip of wine. “She helped me on a couple of cases, remember?”
“Well, I’m sorry she was someone you knew.” Diana went back to her pasta. “It’s just not good that they’re out there like that.”
“Not good for business?”
“Well, there is that, but it’s also not good for them. How many of them can stay healthy, living the way they do?”
“It looks like Millie couldn’t.”
“Exactly. They need to be off the street.”
Jimmy has some suspicions about Diana’s real reason that she wants them gone – and why they seem to be obliging; suspicions that won’t be good for their relationship.
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