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The Sounds of Death
By A. A. Pecora
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2012 A. A. Pecora
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe room was warm and stuffy. Cody Thomas was standing by the window smoking his last cigarette. A crumpled, empty cigarette package lay on the windowsill.
The only sound that could be heard was a low hum originating from the tape machine, which was meant to record any activity picked up by a small "bug" that Cody had placed behind a picture in the room next door. He was attempting to gather information on a sleazy lawyer, who may have some ties to the mob and was cheating on his wife.
Cody could see no activity in the street three stories below. The city was not like itself this early in the morning, particularly in this neighborhood, where there are only old hotels, run-down apartment houses, and a few dilapidated warehouses. There were no people, no cars nor trucks, and the streets were cluttered with old newspapers and debris.
He had been holed up in this desolate flophouse for three days, waiting for the right moment. While investigating the wife of a client, Samuel T. Hollowell, Esq., Cody had discovered that Hollowell was secretly bringing women to the Apollo Hotel which was certainly not the kind of place where he was likely to run into friends or business associates.
As Cody stared out the window, the reflection revealed a rugged, good-looking face with a five o'clock shadow and a three-inch scar running from the lower corner of the right eye back toward the earlobe. Plastic surgery was unable to completely hide the scar, which was the result of a street fight while on duty as a policeman. The dark skin and black hair betrayed Cody's one-eighth Native-American heritage. The cigarette dangled from his mouth. He stood six-foot tall with a well-developed body, which was pressed against the window frame. His right hand was jammed into the pocket of his rumpled slacks.
A brass clock sat on the dusty end table next to the bed, its second hand swept around the face in rhythmic jerks. Two larger black pointers moved almost imperceptibly, one indicating the hour and the other the minute. It was 3:00 a.m. Cigarette smoke hung like a pall over the tattered hotel room. The lamp on the table was not lit, leaving the room illuminated by only the blinking hotel sign outside.
A single bed covered with a sheet stained with what was most likely sweat and grime hugged the wall. The bedside table, on which the clock sat, also held a tarnished brass lamp with a tilted, dirty, fluted shade.
Across from the bed were two doors, one leading to the hall and the other to an empty closet. There was an old, broken wicker-back chair against the wall between the two doors. A small bathroom was off to the left.
The ashtray on the bedside table was filled to overflowing. A crushed cigarette butt smoldered half lit, its thin stream of smoke spiraling upward.
Against the wall, opposite the chair, stood a small black and white TV set with rabbit ear antenna sticking up in the shape of a V. Nothing in the room seemed to be meant for long-term use.
Another puff of blue-gray smoke exhaled from Cody's mouth and wafted across the room, accentuating the light, which intermittently streamed through the uneven blinds.
Hollowell had told Cody that he suspected his wife was running around on him and had hired him to follow her and gather evidence, presumably to be used in a divorce action. Cody subsequently came to suspect that the information was actually to be used by Hollowell as protection against his wife, in case she tried to divorce him and get a large settlement.
Hollowell also told Cody that his wife, Sarah, was out three nights a week with various excuses such as social club meetings, exercise groups, and the women's art society. Cody's job was to check these out and report any discrepancies to Samuel T.
After diligently setting up his investigation, Cody spent the next three weeks verifying each location Mrs. Hollowell visited. He discovered Mrs. Hollowell was doing exactly what she claimed.
At the gym, he found Mrs. Hollowell sweating along with her friends as they did their aerobics. When she finished, she'd shower and usually stop to have a cup of coffee with the ladies then immediately return home. When he checked out the women's social club and the art society, she was again doing what she was supposed to be doing. Cody noted suspiciously, however, that each evening when Mrs. Hollowell returned home, his client was never there.
Cody met with Mr. Hollowell to give him the preliminary report, thinking that he would be paid off, and their association would be ended. Instead, Hollowell insisted that Cody continue the investigation. Since he was being paid well, Cody was only too happy to continue.
It was then that Cody decided to set up surveillance on Mr. Hollowell. It would be a kick, he thought, and besides, it seemed ironic that the man who hired him would end up paying for his own surveillance. Since Cody had no other cases at this point, he readily agreed. Additionally, by gathering this information against Mr. Hollowell, Cody thought there might be an opportunity for a future paycheck from Mrs. Hollowell if she decided to start divorce proceedings of her own. Besides, he had come to dislike Samuel T. Hollowell, Esq. A lot.
This was the reason he had spent the last three nights in this crummy room, smoking cigarette after cigarette, and waiting. His routine was to arrive at the Apollo at around 7:00 p.m. and stay until 7:00 a.m. Nothing happened the first two nights, and Cody went home each morning tired and feeling grungy, like the hotel room he was using. When he got home, Joanna, his wife of two years, would be there with a hug and a kiss and no questions asked. She was Cody's second wife. His previous marriage had lasted only one year because Maryann, his first wife, couldn't accept his line of work and the hours spent doing it.
Early in their marriage, Maryann began to accuse him of infidelity. His crazy hours often kept them apart for days at a time. When he finally did get home, she would immediately begin questioning him regarding his whereabouts. She took no interest in his work and did nothing but complain about the lack of money and material things. Cody tried to make it up to her by spending money he didn't have. He eventually overextended himself with credit cards and loans, making things even worse.
Often, when he got home, Maryann wasn't there, and when eventually she did arrive, the excuses she offered for her absence were feeble. However, it was when she decided to take a separate vacation that things really fell apart. One day, he came home to find a note saying that she'd gone to a health spa for a week. She didn't even mention where the spa was located. When Maryann returned, they quarreled, and Maryann walked out. A few weeks later, he received the divorce papers, and that was the end of that.
Joanna was different. She was really excited by his work and understood and accepted the unusual hours and the frequent periods of financial insecurity. She never complained that he had to spend many late nights during his investigations.
Joanna Trombetti was working at the county courthouse as a stenographer when they met. Cody had been in court to testify in a case, when he noticed this pretty five feet two inches woman with flaxen hair and dark brown eyes who was recording the proceedings. She so captivated him that he made it his business to hang around until she was finished that particular session. He waited outside the courtroom, and when she came out, he walked over to her and calmly introduced himself. Cody did not lack courage, especially when it came to women.
She said she remembered him from the morning court case and a few minutes of small talk followed. He asked her to have lunch with him, she agreed, and they went to a nearby diner.
During lunch, he discovered Joanna was the oldest of three children. There was a boy two years younger and a sister four years younger. Joanna's brother, a CPA, was married with two children, two little girls. Joanna adored her nieces. Her sister had died tragically at a young age. When Cody tried to discuss the death of her sister, Joanna would refuse to go in to any detail and change the subject. Cody didn't press her for more information; he thought she would tell him when she felt the time was right. He also noted that Joanna had the slightest overbite. This small flaw didn't upset Cody at all; in fact, he found that he really liked it.
Mr. and Mrs. Trombetti were hard working people. Mr. Trombetti was a stonemason, and Joanna's mom raised her children to be honest and respectful. It was these qualities in Joanna that attracted that attracted Cody. He always felt that her honesty was her best quality and was the thing that most distinguished her from Maryann.
Things progressed steadily and rapidly from that day on, and three months later, they were married.
Suddenly, Cody was roused from his thoughts by the whirring of the tape recorder, which signaled there was activity in the next room. He picked up the frayed wicker chair, carried it to the table on which the tape recorder sat. As he moved across the room, the blinking light from the hotel sign streaming between the uneven slats of the wooden blinds reflected off his face.
Putting the earphones over his ears, he listened to the commotion in the next room. He could clearly hear a deep male voice that sounded like Samuel T. Hollowell. The words were slurred, and there was laughing. Because of the slurred speech, Cody was sure that the man had been drinking.
He listened intently in an attempt to hear the voice of the other person. It was a female voice, but it was very soft, too soft in fact, to be heard clearly. Besides, the man was doing most of the talking. He was loud and crude and was telling the woman to get undressed.
Cody could hear Hollowell stumbling about the room. Next, he heard the bedsprings squeak loudly, indicating that someone sat on the bed. First, one shoe, then the other hit the floor. Hollowell coughed and began to chuckle again as if he had thought of something amusing. Cody wondered why any woman would want to associate with this loud-mouthed boor, never mind have an affair. Then he remembered that Hollowell had lots of money and threw it around freely.
After a few minutes, Hollowell could be heard calling for the woman to come over to him. The muffled sounds of high-heeled shoes walking across the rug thumped through the earphones. Cody continued to listen for the next ten or fifteen minutes.
There were sounds of activity, which included the bed squeaking, grunting and groaning, and muffled coughing. It was not strange that the woman made little noise. Cody thought he could discern a couple of slaps, perhaps from a strap, which made him wonder about kinky sex. Maybe Hollowell liked to be dominated, or more likely, he would want to be the one in control.
Soon, the noise subsided, and Cody could hear only the sounds of the woman walking around the room, perhaps gathering her things. In a while, he heard the door open, and the high-heeled shoes echoing down the hall. Running to the door, he opened it ever so slightly, in an attempt to get a look at the woman. The single bulb at the end of the hallway failed to cast enough light for him to see her clearly in the shadows. She was about average height, but that was all he could make out before she opened the fire door and hurried through into the stairwell.
Cody closed the door and returned to the earphones. Listening carefully, he heard nothing more from the next room and assumed Hollowell was sleeping off his night of drinking and sex. At about 6:00 a.m., he packed up his recording equipment and left the room. After loading the equipment into his car, he drove home.
When he got home, about 6:45 a.m., he parked his car in the driveway and let himself into the house. He tried to be very quiet because he did not want to awaken Joanna. Then he realized she would have to be getting up soon anyway.
The sound of Joanna's alarm could be heard in the kitchen where Cody was starting to make some coffee. He heard her groan, and then the alarm was quiet. After a few minutes, nothing was stirring. He thought she might have rolled over and dozed off again, so he went upstairs to the bedroom, opened the door, and peeked in.
There was Joanna lying across the bed on her belly, completely nude, except for a pair of bikini panties. Her arm was stretched out toward the alarm. Cody laughed to himself and stood admiring her for a few minutes. He was dead tired, but he felt like getting undressed and making love to her right then and there.
Instead, he walked over and sat on the edge of the bed, gently placed his hand on Joanna's back, and slowly rubbed it up and down from her neck to her buttocks.
"Good morning, sweetheart, it's time to get up."
There was no response. Again he tried, "Hey, sleepyhead, it's time to get up."
Joanna let out a soft purring sound, opened one eye, looked at him, and smiled. "Do I have to?"
"You know it will take you an hour to get ready, and you have to be in Judge Woodengate's courtroom at 9:00 a.m."
She turned over, exposing her beautiful breasts to Cody. He immediately felt miserable because she had to go to work. He was about to suggest that she call in sick, but then thought better of it.
"Oh, all right. Let me jump in the shower." She inhaled deeply and sniffed. "Is that coffee I smell?"
"Yep, I put it on a few minutes ago."
"Great! Pour me a cup, while I get into the shower."
"Sure," he said, as he got up from the bed and went to the door. When he turned to look at her again, she was leaning over to turn on the shower. Wow! he thought. How was I lucky enough to get her?
He went downstairs quickly, poured the coffee, brought it up, and placed it on the table in the bathroom.
"The coffee's on the table. Hurry down, I have something interesting to tell you."
"Okay!" she replied in a voice loud enough to be heard over the noise of the shower.
Thirty minutes later, they were sitting at the kitchen table, and Cody was telling Joanna about his surveillance.
"Well, it finally paid off. My mark showed up last night with a woman."
"That's great, honey. By the way, who is this guy? You never did tell me his name. Oh, that's right. You're not supposed to, are you?"
Cody replied, "No, but you know, it's the sleaze bag that hired me to follow his wife. It turns out that the wife is okay, but the guy who hired me is a fraud and a cheat. I caught him with another woman last night."
"You caught him? Where? How?"
"Remember, I had that surveillance set up?"
"Yes, I do, but you never told me where or why you were even doing it."
Cody got up from the table and went to the counter to pour himself a second cup of coffee. As he stood there, he lit a cigarette and continued.
"At some run-down hotel in a crummy part of town. Anyway, after three nights, he showed up with a woman and was he loaded! They apparently had sex, and she left. He was still there when I left."
"Did you get a look at the woman?"
"I tried, but I couldn't see her clearly. I could just about hear her voice and not very well at that. I can tell you that I think something kinky was going on."
"Really! Tell me about it," said Joanna excitedly.
Cody eased back to the table and sat down as he went on with his story. "Well, there was a lot of slapping and hitting. And from what I could tell, the man seemed to be enjoying it. He was groaning and making all kinds of guttural sounds. It sounded very different to me. But I got the whole thing on tape."
"Crazy stuff, hon, but what are you going to do with it?"
"I don't know yet. I do know I'm going to drop this character as a client. But as to what I am going to do with the tape, I'm just not sure."
"Don't you think that it would be fair to give it to his wife?" Joanna asked with just the right amount of female indignation.
"Although she seems to be a nice lady, I wasn't hired by her, so I don't think I would just give it to her. I was thinking I might just hold on to it for future reference. One never knows. Then there is the thing about client confidentiality, even if he doesn't deserve it. Also, this guy is a pretty powerful individual and could cause me trouble and perhaps cost me my license."
"I guess I understand. Well, I'm off to court. I'll see you this evening around five thirty."
Joanna got up from the table and moved toward Cody to give him a good-bye kiss. After a quick peck on the cheek, she hurried out the door.
Excerpted from The Sounds of Death by A. A. Pecora Copyright © 2012 by A. A. Pecora. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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