DEATH OF THE SWAMI SCHWARTZ

DEATH OF THE SWAMI SCHWARTZ

by Noreen Wald

Paperback

$15.23 $15.95 Save 5% Current price is $15.23, Original price is $15.95. You Save 5%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Thursday, March 28

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781943390892
Publisher: Henery Press
Publication date: 03/08/2016
Pages: 226
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.48(d)

Read an Excerpt

Death of the Swami Schwartz

A Kate Kennedy Mystery


By Noreen Wald

Henery Press

Copyright © 2016 Noreen Wald
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-943390-92-2


CHAPTER 1

"If I subtract ten years and thirty pounds, do you think I'll hear from a few good men?"

Marlene pushed her airbrushed glamour shots toward Kate for her scrutiny. The best would be posted on LastRomance.com, an online dating site for seniors.

Kate answered her former sister-in-law gingerly. "You might get more responses, but if you lie about your age and weight, what happens when you meet Mr. Right in person?"

Marlene laughed, that raucous, infectious laughter that Kate had enjoyed for almost sixty years. Ballou, Kate's West Highland Terrier, nestled against Marlene's left ankle.

They were sitting on Kate's balcony, watching surfers struggle in a rough-for-South-Florida sea and creating a brief biography to accompany Marlene's picture.

The warm winter wind seemed to temper the mid-morning sun's rays, but Kate, so fair-skinned she burned, peeled, and freckled in a matter of minutes, had swathed her face and arms in SPF 40 sunscreen and plopped a huge straw hat over her short silver hair. Old gray sweatpants covered her long legs.

Marlene wore a red and orange print tankini, its matching chiffon caftan crumpled up on a nearby chaise, her tanned-to-whole-wheat-toast body begging for more.

"You think the guys aren't lying too?" Marlene spread light strawberry cream cheese on a poppy seed bagel.

Kate's eyes followed the trail of tiny black seeds as they slithered down to the floor, leaving miniature polka dots on the ivory tile. She'd earned her "June Cleaver" nickname the hard way: Terminal Tidiness. But as she'd done so often during decades of marriage and motherhood, she bit her tongue. She'd mop the tile after Marlene left.

"Mary Frances had a lively email exchange with a 'sixty-three-year-old' who bragged about what great shape he was in, then turned out to be over ninety and on a walker." Marlene sipped her tea, frowned, then added another spoonful of sugar.

Since Mary Frances Costello, their Ocean Vista condo neighbor and an ex-nun, was the reigning Broward County Tango Champion, Kate knew that guy would never have been a match for her.

While Marlene pecked at her laptop's keyboard, Kate, too recently widowed to have any interest in romance, stood and stretched. Her classes at the Palmetto Beach Yoga Institute, complete with meditation techniques, were keeping her mind occupied and her body flexible — she was almost ready to solo on a headstand. Kate's attempts to master that position while her instructor or another student held her legs up straight had been exhilarating.

Tonight the institute's founder, Yogi Swami Schwartz, would be honored by the board of directors at Mancini's, Kate's favorite Italian restaurant. Her late husband, Charlie, had loved their baked ziti, saying it was every bit as good as Angelo's in Little Italy. Kate had been invited to the party as board member Mary Frances' guest and was looking forward to toasting Swami with champagne. Or maybe not ... the yogi probably didn't drink.

Kate smiled as she pictured Swami — the man who had changed her life — then easily reached and touched her toes ten times and sat down.

"The Last Romance passion prompt is asking me to pick the category that best describes my body type."

Appraising Marlene, most certainly overweight but with remnants of a former Olympic swimmer's body, still rather firm and strong, Kate weighed her answer. "What are the choices?"

"Slim. Toned and Terrific. Athletic. Pleasingly Plump. Starting a Diet Today."

Feeling like Solomon, Kate nodded. "Well ... can you select more than one?"

"Yeah, I guess." Marlene groaned, then shrugged. "Which ones?"

"Athletic and Pleasingly Plump. You're an appealing combination of those two categories."

Marlene grinned and swung around to her keyboard, causing Ballou to yelp indignantly. "Kate, say that again, slowly. You're talking faster than I can type."

CHAPTER 2

With its light ocean breezes, bright sunshine, and cooler temperature, February in South Florida could seduce a transplanted New Yorker into believing she lived in paradise, but Kate still had serious reservations about the other eleven months.

On the beach with Ballou, she kicked away a clump of olive green seaweed, then watched a pale yellow moon slowly rising in a Wedgewood sky. Matching her pace, her thoughts meandered from Marlene's dating game to local politics.

In a town still smarting from a scandal redolent of Barry's Washington, Buddy's Providence, and Tammany Hall's New York, Palmetto Beach's current mayor and council had been elected on a reform platform. They were a dour lot. The mayor, a minister who boasted a LL.B. as well as a D.D., had vowed to return the town to its former glory. His current crusade against lap dance clubs "sullying the scenery on Federal Highway," waged from his pulpit and while presiding at the Town Hall meetings, had made headlines and had resulted in attendance at both venues dropping dramatically. Meanwhile, the lap dance clubs continued to thrive.

The three councilmen — a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker (the latter, a woman, owned a factory over on Powerline Road that produced novelty items, including monogrammed candlesticks) were equally aggressive in asserting how ethically they behaved and in believing their own press releases.

Sometimes Kate found herself yearning for the crooked council she'd helped unseat.

Ballou yanked on the leash, eager ears slightly askew, twisting around to look up beguilingly at his mistress. "Okay," she laughed. "I know I'm a slowpoke."

She moved faster, breathing in the salty, fresh ocean air, letting it smart then clear her sinuses. Suddenly, overwhelmingly missing her husband, Kate glanced up at the man in the moon's profile and sighed. As if infused with a dose of Charlie Kennedy's NYPD-Homicide-Detective common sense, she decided residents of a town who wanted — and voted — to retain its sleepy charm, shouldn't complain when progress halts and reactionaries rule.

Marlene, Ocean Vista's newly elected condo president, had been making noises about running for town council next year, saying her campaign would promise to put a condom in every pocket. Kate worried that her former sister-in-law might be serious. Maybe flirting through Last Romance would distract Marlene from her political ambitions.

"Come on, Ballou, we're heading home. I have a dinner party to go to." Though somewhat surprised and more than a little guilty, Kate felt excited about her evening out. It would be fun to wear her blue silk dress again, to pay homage to her yoga instructor, and to feast on Mancini's baked ziti.

Oh God. Could she be getting used to life without Charlie? He'd been gone nine months. Long enough to give birth. Long enough to accept death?


Debating whether or not to apply eye shadow and mascara — Marlene had given her a makeover at Neiman's for Christmas — Kate assessed her fine lines, soft jaw, and too-pale skin. Strange how her chestnut hair turning silver had also turned her pink complexion sallow. The portable plastic tray that held all Marlene's magic potions sat in front of her. Sighing, Kate applied more blush and reached for the mascara. Charlie had liked to watch her "fix her face." She hoped he was still watching. Just in case, she told him, "I'm ready to rock and roll."

A familiar rat-a-tat-tat announced Marlene. What did she want? Kate was meeting Mary Prances in five minutes. Not hiding her annoyance, Kate opened the door.

Marlene burst in, waving several sheets of paper. "Can you believe this?" She shoved the papers under Kate's carefully powdered nose. "My picture and bio have been on Last Romance for four hours and I have four responses."

"Really?" Kate came off as surprised, masking a swift pang of what might be jealousy mixed with awe at Marlene's bravado.

"Of course, three of them are losers. Bachelor number one wanted to know if I had a spare room. Bachelor number two thinks Gore Vidal is a wrestler, and number three still lives with his mother and likes to be tucked in. But this guy," Marlene shuffled the papers and handed one to Kate, "is perfect."

Kate stared at a hazy photo of a man in a tuxedo who looked vaguely like a moon-faced politician her father used to bring home for dinner.

"His grammar is correct, his vocabulary includes words longer than seven letters, and he has season tickets to the Performing Arts Center and the opera."

What about character? Or didn't that count at all?

Marlene read from his email. "I enjoy fine dining, French wine, and Italian films. You sound like a warm, witty woman, whom I would enjoy getting to know and to share my interests with."

Kate nodded. Not many longer-than-seven-letter words in that excerpt. And he'd ended a sentence with a preposition. She'd better watch out, she was bordering on petty.

"Doesn't he sound wonderful?"

Because she loved and didn't want to disappoint her best friend, who'd been married three times and still yearned for another man in her life, Kate said, "Yes."

"We're meeting at the Breakers for brunch tomorrow."

"What? I hope he's treating."

"All according to the passion prompt's advice. In broad daylight. Ugh. Who needs that? In a safe place, open to the public. And I'm driving myself up to Palm Beach, so I can leave whenever I want ... but with this dreamboat, why would I want to leave?"

"Marlene ..."

"I'm telling you, Kate. This will be a date to die for."

CHAPTER 3

In addition to her reservations about living in paradise, Kate had reservations about Mary Frances Costello. Conflicting emotions, as her Dr. Phil-obsessed, Harvard pre-law granddaughter would say. God knows she admired the ex-nun's dancing, especially her exotic tango. And with that red hair — probably artificially enhanced, though Kate had never spotted a root — and those emerald eyes and firm figure, the woman would be considered beautiful if she were thirty-five, instead of the "well over sixty" that Marlene insisted she "had to be."

Still, something about Mary Frances bothered Kate. Though she served as an advocate for the homeless, volunteered in a soup kitchen, and seemed both friendly and sincere, Kate couldn't decide if Mary Frances was less than swift or sly as a fox. And, with her bare midriff tops, her bedroom turned into a mirrored dance studio, and her searching for a date online, while "seeing" the only unattached widower in Ocean Vista, Mary Frances' self-promoted chastity irked Kate.

Most puzzling of all, Ballou's tail never wagged when Mary Frances arrived to play cards during the lonely Hearts club's monthly meeting at Kate's apartment. And his body tensed if Mary Frances tried to pet him.

Having lived most of her married life in Rockville Centre, a Nassau County community filled with cops, firemen, and stockbrokers, where she and Charlie had raised their two sons, Kate had never met anyone from Minnesota — and the only former nun she knew well was Sister Jean, her favorite high school teacher who'd introduced her to Graham Greene and then a decade later — post Vatican II — had eloped with a Jesuit from Fordham.

So after nine months, Mary Frances remained an enigma — and, apparently, an innocent, making meaningful dialogue difficult.

As they walked the short distance from Ocean Vista's ornate, faux Roman-and-Greek lobby to Mancini's, whose decor was more Mott Street than myth, Kate let Mary Frances lead the casual conversation, nodding and agreeing with her hero worship of Swami Schwartz. Truth be told, Kate, though too embarrassed to admit it, felt pretty much the same way.

Mancini's, located on Neptune Boulevard and a block from the Atlantic Ocean, abounded with burned-down candles in Chianti bottles, dark paneling, and red and white tablecloths. It might have been any Southern Italian restaurant in any New York City neighborhood. At seven p.m., late dining by Palmetto Beach's standards, every table was taken and the small bar to the left of the front door was standing room only.

In his usual Friday night tribute to Dean Martin, the seventy-something piano player with the really bad rug was singing "That's Amore." He sounded a lot like Dino. The twinge of nostalgia sent a shiver of reminiscence through Kate.

Blonde and ponytailed Tiffani Cruz, the perky waitress at Ocean Vista's dining room who drew red hearts over the last "i" on her name tags, moonlighted at Mancini's. Balancing her cocktail-laden tray above her head with one hand, she waved at Kate and Mary Frances with the other. Kate smiled broadly and waved back. The lithe and lovely Tiffani also worked part-time and took classes at the Yoga Institute — where she'd helped Kate to almost master a headstand — and attended Broward County Community College, "majoring in massage therapy."

Danny Mancini, the restaurant's owner and operator, grabbed Kate's hand mid-air and, with a flourish, kissed it, performing in the manner of a French diplomat rather than a self-proclaimed high school dropout from Brooklyn with reputed mob connections. Tall and very thin, he reminded Kate more of Tony Randall than Tony Soprano.

As Mary Frances simpered while Mancini raised her hand to his lips, Kate found herself wishing she had a napkin to wipe away the wet spot he'd left on her wrist.

"Ciao, Bella Katarina." Danny's reedy voice oozed sincerity; however, he'd already turned his attention to Mary Frances. "All in yellow, you look like sunshine, Maria Francesa. Like a tulip in the spring. Like a ..."

"Is Swami Schwartz here yet?" One more simile and Kate would have screamed. "I think we're running a little late."

"But of course, Bella, though Swami hasn't arrived. I've seated some of the party. Please follow me."

When Mary Frances had invited Kate, she explained that she'd served on the Yoga Institute's board of directors for less than six weeks, but had been taking classes there and helping out with fundraising for over a year. Swami Schwartz volunteered at the Palmetto Beach Medical Center's Nursing Home, teaching its residents yoga stretches and meditation techniques, and the money Mary Frances and other students solicited was used to buy mats and loose yoga-appropriate garb for those elderly practitioners.

Three well-turned-out people, whom Kate gathered were all board members, sat at a large round table smack in the middle of the restaurant, apparently awaiting the guest of honor.

Kate recognized one of them. Sanjay Patel, her yoga instructor. The small, slim young man had arrived in the United States from India where he'd been a surgeon, and a year later was still waiting to take his Florida State Medical Boards.

A seemingly gentle soul, patient yet determined, he'd taught his yoga sessions with a quiet energy that made Kate eager to master the positions. Sanjay had introduced her to a special Indian blend of tea, and they often enjoyed a cup and conversation together after class. Kate missed her sons, who both lived in New York, and Sanjay's company made her a little less lonely.

Tonight, dressed all in white, Sanjay Patel looked pure and princely. Kate thought about her pre-law granddaughter, Lauren. Any chance Sanjay could be a fan of Dr. Phil too?

Nearing the table in Danny Mancini's wake, Mary Frances whispered, "The important-looking gentleman with the silver hair and the two-hundred-dollar Palm Beach haircut is Dr. Jack Gallagher, the CEO of the Palmetto Beach Medical Center. So suave. He's a darling man."

Oh, Mary Frances, aren't they all? Kate thought rather uncharitably.

"And such a humanitarian. His HMO is advertised as the best example of managed care in South Florida."

Kate figured "best HMO" had to be an oxymoron.

"I joined last month and the benefits are wonderful. Why the plan even covers a liver transplant."

Kate had a sudden urge for a double martini.

Mary Frances smiled as Dr. Gallagher stood to greet her.

Sitting next to Gallagher, a glamorous blonde in black — well preserved and doggedly elegant — tugged on his arm. "But you haven't finished telling me about the Lazarus Society." A pout punctuated her words.

A flash of what? Fear? Anger? clouded the doctor's eyes just before he patted the blonde's shoulder, then greeted Mary Frances with a kiss on each cheek.

"Jack Gallagher," he said, now extending a large, well-manicured hand to Kate. A mid-Atlantic accent honed to perfection. He had to be at least 6'3", all of it toned and covered in Armani, with any visible skin — face and hands — tanned and glowing. And no one could have eyes that blue ... must be contacts. His features were too ragged to be handsome and he had to be in his late sixties, but his smile, slightly crooked and baring strong white teeth, came across as both overconfident and disarmingly charming.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Death of the Swami Schwartz by Noreen Wald. Copyright © 2016 Noreen Wald. Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews