For nine long days, the mayor and district attorney of Reno, Nevada, have been missing. Vanished without a trace. Their vehicles were found parked side-by-side at Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Did they fly somewhere together? They aren’t on any flight manifest. Did the two of them take off with a big pile of the city’s money? If so, the city accountants can’t find it. Were they murdered? There’s no sign of foul play. Their disappearances have finally made national news. Enter Mortimer Angel, who’d just quit a thankless job as an IRS agent. Mort is Reno’s newest gumshoe, a private-eye-in-training at his nephew’s detective agency. Just four hours into his new career, Mort finds the mayormake that, the mayor’s headin the trunk of Mort’s ex-wife’s Mercedes. The news-hungry media speculates: Did Mort kill the mayor? Did Mort’s ex? As events begin to spin out of control, Mort realizes things have been out of control since the night before he started his new career, the night he found the unknown naked blonde in his bed.
About the Author
Rob Leininger grew up in California before joining the navy. He served aboard heavy cruisers during the Vietnam War and also at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. He received a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Nevada and worked on Trident missiles for Hercules, and “black” defense projects for Northrop Corp. Leininger’s novels Black Sun and Killing Suki Flood have been optioned for feature films by Warner Bros. Before deciding to write full time, Leininger taught high school math in Reno, Nevada, where he now lives.
Read an Excerpt
[A Mortimer Angel Novel]
By Rob Leininger
Oceanview PublishingCopyright © 2015 Rob Leininger
All rights reserved.
Four hours into my new career as a private eye, a gumshoe, I found Reno's missing mayor. Me, Harold Angel's son, as unlikely as that was to all those who know me. Mayor Jonnie Sjorgen had been missing for ten days. By the time he'd been gone a week, he was national news, so my locating him was a major coup that got me well-deserved but unwanted media attention. More about that later. First, there were the two gorgeous women who came into my life.
* * *
I was sitting at the bar when the first girl wandered into the Green Room at 10:56 p.m. and looked around. Other than two middle-aged ladies drinking mai-tai's at the farthest table from the entrance, and of course me, the place was empty.
An old Star Trek rerun was winding up on the TV over the bar, the real deal from before my time with Kirk and Spock, old funky bad-ass Klingons in bad costumes.
Tucked into a corner of Reno's Golden Goose Casino, the Green Room was a dim, unlikely watering hole overlooked by many of the locals. It was also too tucked or too dim to attract the attention of folks from out of town, which made it a good place to get a quiet buzz on or get loaded to the gills.
Pretty damn fine evening, it was, too. I had sole possession of the remote, and I was about to start a whole new career in the morning as a PI, Reno's very own Sam Spade, when this finely-tuned Penthouse creature appeared at the entrance and looked around with nothing promising on the horizon except me.
Which shows how much looks can be deceiving.
After giving the place a quick scan, she sauntered over and eased onto the stool next to mine at the otherwise empty bar. This was, of course, a sizeable mistake on her part, but how was she to know? And what were her options? I gave her a quick scan of my own. By some clever, possibly-industrial process, she had been poured into a slinky black dress that had responded by filling out more than adequately in all the customary places. Or maybe she'd been dipped in liquid silk and inflated.
But enough about her. In my personal experience, and in the court of public opinion, IRS agents rank somewhere below that of politicians or prostitutes. As a result, my place in society for the past sixteen years had been fixed somewhere beneath the rock you'd look under to find a Sunset Boulevard hooker or the politician atop her.
Sixteen interminable years. It was time for a change. First week in July I finally made it. Told the IRS to shove it and took three weeks off — a well-deserved mini-vacation before embarking on my new career. I figured this change in my life, as radical and irresponsible as it was, was going to be a snap, exactly what I needed as I approached the mid-life-crisis years. As it turned out, I was wrong about the snap, but that was anything but new.
It's said that a change of careers is stressful, but I didn't see it that way. Why would I? I was going from one of the world's worst jobs to one of the best. My equanimity was also due in part to the large number of Pete's Wicked Ales I'd downed that evening, elbows planted on the bar's oddly-colored green leatherwork, awash in dim green lighting as Scotty fixed the Enterprise's busted warp drive for the umpteenth time. Warp drives in the future, I decided, were like the Xerox machines of today — a promising and useful technology, but buggy.
I took a sidelong look at my newly-acquired drinking partner. It wouldn't be long before she hit on me. That she would was pretty much guaranteed, practically a requirement of my upcoming position as a private investigator, which would begin — I glanced at my watch, not a Rolex or even a knockoff — in about ten hours. The girl showing up at this pivotal moment in my life was predictable, written in the stars as they say, my way of getting a jump on what I knew was destined to become routine.
She was a looker, all right. Slender, frizzy blond hair, long legs, perfect curves, sleek as an otter. I took another hit of Pete's from a long neck as I awaited the inevitable. I'd read the books. I knew the drill. No doubt there's an entire chapter on gorgeous gals in the PI's manual. I gave the guy in the mirror behind the bar a fatuous wink, and he winked back at me, right on cue. Turns out both of us were drinking Wicked Ale. I liked that.
During my years as a field agent for the IRS, I could count true friends on the fingers of one hand, with a few fingers left over. Reno's phone book was a roster of potential enemies. After finally dumping the whole mess — all those years, including a percentage of what had metastasized into an almost attractive pension that I couldn't touch for another twenty years — I told people I'd quit because of the grim silences that resulted at parties when I was asked what I did for a living and, due to a well-exercised lack of judgment, I let on that I was a field agent for the IRS. I might as well have announced that I had a virulent form of airborne rabies. On the surface, therefore, my reasons for leaving the IRS sounded more or less plausible. Who the hell invites Internal Revenue goons to parties in the first place? Social climbers with a death wish? What kind of a life was I leading as a wallet wringer for Uncle Sam? The pay wasn't bad, but did I want to endure another two decades of forced smiles and paranoid glances?
My ex, Dallas, shook her head when I ran that sorry pile of excuses past her. Her explanation charted a very different course: according to her, I was forty-one going on eighteen. I might argue that second number with her, but I couldn't fault her logic.
My name is Mort. Mort Angel. Not Mortimer — even though that mistake made its way onto my birth certificate all those years ago. My mother's idea of a joke, no doubt. It would be just like her, but she says the name comes from a long-dead favorite uncle on her father's side, and a bona fide war hero to boot — Guadalcanal — "so you oughta be proud of the name, kiddo." Knowing mom, and not trusting her as far as I could spit a lug nut, I checked. There is no such uncle on her father's side, which means there's no Guadalcanal war hero, which in turn suggests the name Mortimer is in fact her idea of a joke. Someday I'll have to get her drunk and ask her about it again. Sober, she would laugh and give me the finger, or pay someone else to give me the finger. She's that rich.
So there I was, Sunday evening, not entirely sober at 10:58 p.m., TV remote in hand, a girl right out of wetxxxdreams.com all set to proposition me, and me as eager as a teenager to start my new adult life at my nephew's firm, Carson & Rudd Investigative Services.
I was going to be a PI, the next Mike Hammer or Magnum, but not Hercule Poirot, which I've always thought sounded like a guy who might wear lace undies, which I don't. I was transitioning from a man universally reviled to a man about to become steeped in dark mysteries — although I might've played the part better wearing a trench coat at a rundown, rathole bar over on Fourth, east of Virginia Street. A dark and dangerous place like Waley's Tavern. I thought noir suited me. But I liked the electric air of the casino too, the tension, the incessant money-jangle and kinetic activity, the half-assed James Bond atmosphere — what would've been closer to a 007 atmosphere if not for the moronic siren-song of the slots that have taken over — slap-happy, nerve-shredding noise right out of Sesame Street.
The girl set a sparkly black purse the size of a gerbil on the bar in front of her, made herself more comfortable on the green leather stool with a dexterous wiggle, removed a Cricket lighter from her purse and casually placed it in the neutral zone between us, just within my reach. She tapped a cigarette out of a pack of Camel 99's and held it absently between her fingers, unlit, not looking at me, sitting there as if momentarily distracted, waiting for me to pick up the lighter and act every inch the gentleman so she could act surprised, smile, and get on with the business at hand.
All of which shows how little she knew. I took another pull on my Wicked Ale, then hit a button on the remote to change channels, thinking I'd catch the news on Reno's NBC affiliate, see if anything new had popped up about Jonnie and Dave, respectively our missing mayor and district attorney. Missing, to be clear, as in gone without a trace.
The girl sighed at my density, lit up, inhaled a lungful of carcinogens, God only knows how in that dress, then blew a smoke ring — a conversation piece. No comment from me even though it was a nice green-hued ring in the track lighting. She gave it another ten seconds, then turned and hit me with a smile so spontaneous and dazzling it had to have been rehearsed in a mirror on a daily basis.
"Buy a girl a drink?"
I knew she'd do that. Or something like it. I'd seen her around. A high-end hooker, she'd been working the Goose for a month or two. But, "Buy a girl a drink?" C'mon. She should've been able to do better than that even if she thought it wasn't strictly necessary. A few hookers have class, but most don't. Sleek or not, this one probably lived in a single-wide trailer out in the redneck wasteland of Sun Valley north of Reno, not because she didn't have enough money but because she wouldn't know any better.
Hookers can be fun if you don't take them seriously, which I don't. And I'd downed enough beer in the past three hours to fully appreciate the lighter side of life.
"Nope," I said, just warming up.
She gave me a pout, something done entirely with her lips, but a calculating look never left her eyes as she continued to assess her chances. She crossed her legs slowly, revealing an interesting length of expensively-tanned, aerobicized thigh. I figured her for twenty-one, twenty-two tops, still fairly new at the game, especially at the casino level, and cheating like a sonofabitch on her federal income taxes. Her tip income for services rendered was probably over a hundred-fifty grand a year, maybe two hundred. If I'd still had my IRS badge, I could've stopped her heart.
So call it a hundred-eighty thousand. Roughly three times what I'd been making as an enforcer for our nation's Gestapo. Which begs the question, which of us was the smarter? Who was more successful? Then again, I didn't have a twenty-four-inch waist and I wasn't straining a C-cup, so it could be argued that she had a natural advantage, very likely enhanced by a few unnatural procedures, not that I was complaining.
She blew another perfect ring.
"Knew a girl once who could blow square rings," I said.
"Yeah?" Her eyes got wider.
"Uh-huh. Down in El Paso. Cute little Mexican gal. Something she did with her tongue"
"Her tongue? Sounds fun," the girl cooed, turning a little more in my direction. "You got a name?"
"Damn right. And yours is ...?"
"Uh, Holiday," she said, timing thrown off by my non-response. "Holiday Breeze."
"No, really. Breeze really is my last name."
"What about Holiday."
"My very own." She looked around, lowered her voice. "We could be friends, hon."
"Yes, we could, Holiday. You could buy me another beer." I swirled my bottle. "This one's pretty much done."
She pursed her lips again. "Tough guy, huh?"
Hell, yes. Come the dawn I would be a full-fledged PI, or close enough. Beautiful girls were going to flock to me like pigeons to a statue. I could take my pick. My previously humdrum life was about to do a great big one-eighty.
Little did I know.
She smiled. "You here on ... holiday, or what?"
Oh, man, this kid.
O'Roarke sidled over, eyes glittering in amusement at the two of us. Patrick O'Roarke was six-five, a lean whipcord of a guy an inch taller than me, balding, with a bushy red mustache. Great bartender. At two-twenty-eight, I outweighed him by the better part of fifty pounds. We're about the same age. I'd hate to try to outrun him, and he'd hate to have to wrestle me. No one's the best at everything.
The girl ordered a Tequila Sunrise, then went back to work on me. "So, good-lookin', what's up with you, huh, you won't buy me a drink?"
"Good-lookin'" almost sprayed a mouthful of beer past those sturdy round globes into the depths of that slinky black dress. Last person who'd said I was good looking was my mother, back when I was still in middle school, and she was lying through her teeth, as mothers are prone to do — mine in particular. When I was ten years old I'd run a skateboard into the side of a car that was doing thirty miles an hour, broken my nose, acquired two dangerous-looking facial scars which had eventually helped during field audits with the IRS, and it'd been all downhill ever since.
But I shouldn't have been surprised. Holiday was a hooker. Hookers say dumb things. They lie. They'll tell you things like their name is Holiday. They tell you what they think you want to hear. To her, every schmoo with a wallet was "Good lookin'," even guys with a face like Wilford Brimley or Edgar G. I decided it was time to spin her around a time or two.
"I've got this side mirror on my car, Holiday," I said, running a finger around a damp ring on the bar's faux walnut surface.
"Yeah?" A wary note crept into her voice, so maybe she wasn't so dumb after all. No way was the side mirror of my car going to lead to anything she wanted to hear, conversation-wise.
"Yeah. The freakin' thing howls, up around sixty miles an hour."
"Lucky you." Her jaw worked, trying to decide if I was for real. She ground her cigarette out in an ashtray and stashed her smoking paraphernalia into her purse, preparing to bail in case this business with the mirror took a turn for the worse. Which it did.
"You oughta hear it," I said with oblivious cheerful abandon. "Sonofabitchin' thing howls like a banshee."
"Fascinating." Her eyes darted toward the exit, then one final thought crept in. "What kinda car?"
"Toyota Tercel. Nineteen ninety-four. Still got its original paint, too. Yellow."
She snatched her purse off the bar. "Serves you the fuck right, bozo," she snarled, then stormed away.
Bozo. Good one, Holiday. I grinned, watching her go.
O'Roarke came over with her drink and the two of us stared with unbridled piggish male admiration at the sight of her marching away, ramrod straight, taut hips swiveling angrily. She disappeared into the video-game jangle of slot machines and the metallic din of dollar tokens tumbling into stainless steel bins.
"I've lost her," I said.
"Howling mirrors. Every girl's secret dream, good-lookin'."
I stared at him. "Christ, you must have ears like a radio telescope."
"Comes with the job, laddie. And I wish you wouldn't chase 'em off before they've paid for their drinks."
"Maybe next time." The eleven o'clock news started up on TV. I hit the remote, jacking up the volume for the latest on Jonnie and Dave.
For two days they'd been national news. Another day or two and the story might get international exposure. Jonnie Sjorgen and Dave Milliken, Reno's mayor and district attorney, had been missing for nine days, since Friday before last. Two of Reno's most visible public figures, gone without a trace. Twenty-four hours would have been a long time. Nine days was an eternity.
In truth, the story was in danger of growing stale locally. People lose interest when the news is no longer new, or when its interest quotient dips below the public's attention span. It wouldn't take much to stoke that fire again, but for the moment the story was like an old comet disappearing into the cosmos, leaving behind a glowing trail of dust. National attention had given it a much-needed boost. It was as if the pair had been sucked into a black hole. Of course, the lack of anything new in the case was itself news, but that only works for a while.
I wouldn't have followed the story quite so closely, except that my one-and-only ex, Dallas, had been living on and off with Jonnie Sjorgen for the past two years. Mostly on, which had made the gossip columns of the Reno Gazette-Journal, which was hinting that the two of them were hinting at marriage.
Tonight, however, Channel Four delivered the same old tired rehash which meant it was time for me to hit the road. I had to go to work in the morning. Looking forward to it, too, for the first time in a decade.
"See ya," I said to O'Roarke, dropping a few extra dollars on the bar, relinquishing my grip on the remote.
Excerpted from Gumshoe by Rob Leininger. Copyright © 2015 Rob Leininger. Excerpted by permission of Oceanview Publishing.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Excellent, great characters and protagonist
Hope this is the start of a series. Only criticism is that every woman is young, strong and drop dead beautiful. Couldn't someone be a little ordinary.
Started with a bang and got better. T my surprise it was an exciting story and kept me interessted with a good ending. Recommend.
Enjoyable read, a bit over the ?op at the end, but recommended if you like noir detective stories.
Very well written and very enjoyable, with believable characters
This was an extremely well written book, the author makes you feel that you are hanging out in Reno with the characters in the book. I liked the premise of a man starting a new career & I thought his old one as a IRS was an interesting twist. I will say it took me a while to get invested in the book, not sure why, but am so glad I stuck to it. It does get gruesome towards to the end, FYI. ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review