No Marriages In Heaven

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My name is Earl Hollo, private eye.  What would you do if someone asked you to investigate the death of the girl you were going to marry?  For a certain someone believed that her death was no accident.  And what would you do if you were uneasy lest the investigation prove she was not the kind of girl you thought she was?  Well, I made my choice. I followed the path leading from Maggie;s death  to the trail's, let say, not so tidy end.


My former colleague and friend Helen Roulston, who proofreads the final galleys of my books for over forty years, suggested that I try to write a detective novel.  I had used the form twice before in other genres. In my The Madonna of Shadows and Darkness, I had a priest assume the role of private eye in order to investigate the supernatural.  In The Player Gods, a nightmarish novel that defies genre classification, my protagonist wakes up in an unfamiliar office, discovers he has a name that he has never before heard, and learns that he is a private detective.  But until Helen suggested my doing so, I had never considered creating a “straight” private eye novel. In fact, I had a few doubts about undertaking the project. 


For one thing the form had become definitive through the works of Raymond Chandler, Ross McDonald, and Dashell Hammet.  Certain elements are almost de rigueur.  The private eye is a loner, lives on a meager income derived from sleuthing, is not always pursing a dame, but ready applies himself if the opportunity offers itself.  He is guided by his own sense of honor.  At times it may depart from traditional ideals, but his dedication to principles separate him from the criminals he encounters.  The rich are almost always portrayed as corrupt sexually and monetarily.  Usually the hero encounters a siren, whom he may or not resist,  And so on

In my novel I try to include these regular element, but play against them, instead of being a detective in the mold of Philip Marlowe, Earl Hollow is 48 year old man, stocky, short, divorced. and living with his elderly mother. In other ways I try to move from the genre, as well as include, some unusual characters.  In enjoyed writing ithe novel, and I hope you enjoy reading it.


Excerpt from No marriages

Earl Hollo, a Louisville private detective, still mourns the apparent shooting accident that killed his fiancée, Maggie Middleton.  Five years later he is summoned by Howie Middleton, her brother, and is surprised to learn that Howie wishes to hire him to investigate Maggie’s murder. Earl is stunned for several reasons, including Howe’s and Maggie’s mutual detestation.  Howie reveals that he has received a commutation from a pseudonymous Gino Carboni who claims to have proof of the murder and to know Howie is likewise slated to be killed. Earl agrees to fly to Cleveland, where he will exchange Howie’s check for an envelope of vital information.  Earl does so and meets “Carboni” at the airport. They decide to make the switch at the latter’s motel room. Carbonie drives him there and----

He stuck his plastic card in the electronic lock, opened the door, and ushered me in with a sweep of his hand.  I stepped over the threshold and stopped immediately.  We were not alone.  Gino Carboni bumped into my shoulders.  Three men had risen from around a small desk moved to the carpet before double beds to our left. Cards were spread on the small hotel desk’s surface. The game had been immediately forgotten. All three had pistols trained on us. 

“Come on in, gents,” said the nearest, apparently the leader, a dark-featured thin man in a maroon sports jacket, black trousers, and a narrow-brimmed straw summer hat.  Behind him smirked a thug in a cobalt-blue suit.  The third looked like a minor hooligan in the Sopranos. He wore tan cargo shorts that reached just below the knee, a black T-shirt covering the upper portion of his belly, and a dirty baseball cap from which the emblem had been cut.

As I stepped further into the room, I heard Gino hesitatingly shut the door behind us. The Happy Charlie cheer had been wiped from his face.  He reminded me of a nine-year-old caught at a corner of fenced-in school yard by bullies.  

“Rudy, you’ve got a big soft mouth, a big one indeed,” said maroon jacket, glaring at “Gino Carboni.”

“Listen, listen, Jacovino,” Gino, or Rudy, hissed, holding up his flattened hands as though they could shield him, taking an inadvertent backward step. “I ain’t greedy. I’m willing to share it.”

“Shut up!” snapped the gangster. 

“How’d you get in here, with electronic lock and all?”

“Oh, maids don’t mind fifty dollars to let in a room some friends who want to plan a surprise party,” Cobalt Jacket sneered.

“Stand over there, Weasel,” said Jacovino.

Cargo Shorts grabbed Rudy by the scruff of the suit coat’s neck, hauled him over beside a small refrigerator by the left, and jabbed a .45 against his rib cage.

“I want that letter!” said Jacovino.

“Of course, Mr. Jacovino,” said Rudy, still transformed into an obedient little boy. He handed it over, and Jacovino placed it within an inner pocket of his suit coat.

“And you,” said Jacovino, turning gimlet eyes on me, “you’re the courier?”

“You might say that.”

“Who are you, Sailor?”

“A private dick hired as a go-between.”

“You sit there!” Jacovino gestured to one of the straight-backed chairs used during the card game. “But first you search him, Chucky.”

Cobalt Blue Suit smirked and stepped toward.  He was shorter than I, perhaps by two inches, but his cocky air told me he wouldn’t allow his shortness to hinder his being tough.   His hair was freshly cut. Blond as a corn silk, closely cropped as though he’s just joined the Army.  The half-moons of flesh about his ears were free from intruding hair. 

Quickly he pulled forth my .38 and located the hidden .380 mm. At Jacovino’s request he tossed them on the bed closer to the door.

“But let’s see the check old Howie’s written to learn Rudy’s good news,” Jacovino said.

He took my brief case, riffled it, and found the envelope. He opened it, looked at the check. “Whew!” he cried.  “Old Howie must think your information is valuable!  Too bad it’ll never be cashed.”  He withdrew a lighter from a side pocket, flicked the fire into being, and touched it to the check’s corner.

“Wait, wait!” cried Rudy, taking a step forward.  “I’ll share it; I’m willing to share——” But he became stock-still when Cargo Shorts jabbed the .45 into the lard about his middle.

The check became a mess of ashes in a cut-glass ashtray.

“There goes your dream of riches, Weasel!” sneered Jacovino. 

Rudy’s mouth widened as though a heavy stone had fallen on his foot, but he dared say nothing.

“What’s the next step, Angelo?” said Chucky, shooting a glance at Rudy, then at me.

Jacavino smiled at me. “One of Chucky’s problems is he gets impatient.  I’ve worked with him before. I have to hold him back.”

Chucky sniggered. 

“You want to know something, Sailor?” continued Jacavino.  “Chucky ain’t his real name.  He’s crazy about those horror movies, about that evil toy kid!  I ain’t seen one of them, but Chucky watches them again and again.  He likes that little demon, or whatever he is, kinda his hero.”

I hadn’t seen any of the films either, but what I had heard of them increased the tension in my stomach.

“So,” continued Jacovino, “he decided to change his name, officially.”

“I hate the goddam name my goddam parents gave me!” said Chucky.

“Chucky,” continued Jacovino, “suppose you guys take Weasel here out for a bit of interrogation.”

“Suppose let’s take 'em both,” said Chucky.

“No, I want to chat with this one a bit,” said Jacovino.  “We’ll be here when you get back.”

Rudy Whoever-he-was tried to protest, but all he could mutter was several buts as Chucky and his fellow thug hustled him out of the door.

“Now, Sailor,” said Jacovino, “I’d like some talk out of you.”   Evidently he had a habit of nicknaming his potential victims.  “You present a kind of unanticipated problem.  We thought the swap would be made here rather than at the airport, although a guy was stationed there if Middleton’s courier got the envelope.”

I nodded.

“Who are you and why did Howie select you?”

“Just a simple private dick. I get requests from all kinds of clients. Being a courier is a bit out of my line, but if it’s few bucks for me, I don’t mind a free plane ride to Cleveland.”

“Lemme see your dick’s license.”

I took it from my wallet and handed it to him.  He studied the card a moment and returned it and the wallet to me, intact.  None of my bills crammed into his pocket. Apparently the boss—or whoever had sent the trio—didn’t want their attracting attention via petty robberies.  Some of the mafia families expect their employees to play by the company’s rules.

“Okay.  But why’d he select you?” 

I should have lied and told him I supposed Mr. Middleton ran his finger down a phone book page, but an automatic honesty prompted me to say I used to date his sister.  “If things had worked out, he could have been my brother-in-law.”

“Now that’s interesting, mighty interesting,” replied Jacovino, still holding a pistol on me.  “Makes me wonder what other work you’ve done for him.”

“None. In fact, we don’t particularly like each other.”

“That so, Sailor?  Maybe you’re telling the truth. Or maybe you know more about Middleton’s shenanigans than you are letting on.  Maybe you’re involved in them.”

“I don’t know a thing about his doings, legal or illegal.”

“That could be true, I’ll wager, but if I let you fly off scot-free and you’re not telling me the truth, some important people north of here might not give me an A-plus for this job.”

“People in New York, Chicago, or Toronto?” I asked, referring to several Mafia strongholds. 

The right corner of his mouth twisted up a bit, but not as a prelude to a smile.  “If you are an innocent bystander, maybe we’ll just let you go, provided you promise to say nothing about this.  But if you’re one of Howie Middleton’s right hands, you’d better develop an excellent tenor voice ’cause we’ll expect you to sing.  We’ll wait until Little Chucky gets back. He may have some questions and ways of getting you to answer them. They say he’s a real artist with an ice pick, but he don’t make them ice sculptures.”

I swallowed the lump that had formed in my throat.  I wasn’t eager to undergo any interrogation designed by Chucky.  Besides, I was certain that the “interrogation” of Rudy was a euphemism.