What loyalty do you owe and to whom? Family, friends, neighbors, community, society? Many of the stories in this issue explore the complicated demands of these bonds of blood and affection.
In our cover story, “Glass” by James R. Benn, an uncle and nephew find their loyalty tested when an unlikely stroke of luck hands them the means to wealth and success. In R. T. Lawton’s “Gnawing at the Cat’s Tail,” the young son of a warlord in the opium trade survives internecine conflict with the aid of an unlikely ally. A teacher’s summer work operating an ice-cream truck draws unwanted attention from her landlord in “Ice Ice Baby,” by Barb Goffman. In “Blindsided,” cowritten by Michael Bracken and James A. Hearn, a college football player must question his loyalty to a teammate.
During the Vietnam War, a sergeant stands up for his colonel when the officer is accused of murder in “Raining” by Peter Colt. In Robert Lopresti’s “Taxonomy Lesson,” an academic dalliance goes off the tracks at an important conference. Set among the Haliwa community of North Carolina, a white writer opens up old wounds when he tries to track down a womanizer from the fifties in “Ju Ju” by L. A. Wilson, Jr. In the western “No God West of Hays,” by Eric Ruark, a compatriot turned foe of Wild Bill Hickok tries to rescue a group of sisters abducted from a wagon train traveling the old Santa Fe trail. The small community where an artist and his wife have bought a lake house is less serene than the quiet environment would suggest in John C. Boland’s “Paris Green.”
Wayne J. Gardiner examines the blowback from a police shooting in “A Hell of a Thing . . .” A neighborhood is plagued by a string of break-ins in “The Shoemaker’s Children” by Tom Savage. A tough social studies teacher manages to leave behind a cryptic clue to the identity of his shooter in “The Map Dot Murder” by Mark Thielman.
Finally, we welcome Floyd Sullivan in this issue with “The Beano,” a story about the murder of a wealthy collector of baseballs. And Lee Lofland explains the complexities of grand juries in his Case Files column. Plus book reviews, puzzles, and more!
Our own loyalty, of course, is to our readers as we seek to bring you an exciting lineup of tales in every issue.
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by Floyd Sullivan
A headline in my news feed stopped me cold. “Robert Charles found dead in Old Town home.” I read the article and six more on various news outlet websites. All reported much the same story. The wealthy North Side financier had been discovered “unresponsive” by his cleaning service early that morning. A police spokesperson stated that he died of an apparent head wound but would rule out neither foul play nor an accident. The investigation was ongoing.
I texted Martin. “Hear about Bob?”
“Check local news sites.”
“Will do.” Five minutes later he texted again. “Holy S! Cops want to talk to you?”
“Not yet. You?”
“Don’t know. In WI. Gig at Delavan Lake last night.” In addition to brokering photography and printing, Martin played in a rock band, an avocation that seemed more important to him as he aged.
A month before, he had emailed me about a freelance photo shoot. Robert Charles wanted his collection of famous baseballs photographed by a professional, but it had to be done at his home, not in a studio. He never let his precious collectibles leave his house.
“How do you know him?” I asked Martin as we discussed the job over coffee at a Starbucks.
“Believe it or not I met him on Waveland Avenue during a Cubs game maybe thirty years ago. We were ball hawks. Are you familiar with the term?” READ MORE
by Eric B. Ruark
Eighteen years old and on the run, again. Little Arkansas climbed off his horse. Using his fist, he rounded the crown of his hat and then poured half of his canteen into it. He held the hat under the horse’s muzzle and allowed the animal to drink. After the horse had sucked it dry, Little Arkansas reformed the crown and placed the hat back on his head. Then he checked the horse’s hooves. If Hickok were following him, he could not afford for his horse to go lame.
Little Arkansas had no doubt that Wild Bill was on his trail. Not because he had killed Charles Cougar for snoring, but because he had given Hickok his word to stay out of trouble while in Abilene. Which he did, for the most part. Hell, he had even gone to the circus with Wild Bill to see Miss Agnes Lake perform. Little Arkansas smiled, remembering how taken his mentor seemed to be with the beautiful equestrienne. No, Hickok could forgive him the accidental killing, but he would never forgive him for breaking his word.
Little Arkansas cursed his luck. It was his own damn fault. He should never have gotten into that card game. He should never have gotten that drunk. He should never have shot indiscriminately through the hotel room wall to wake Cougar up. How was he to know that Charlie’s bed was against their shared wall. It’s not like he meant to put a ball through the man’s head. He had nothing against him except for the snoring. But, damn, that man could snore. READ MORE
by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo
What is a protagonist’s role in a nation? How does any citizen discern their own role in shaping a country and carrying forward, or resisting, what that country holds to be true? For this issue, Booked & Printed looks abroad to protagonists grappling with these questions, and finding their own ambivalent answers between legality and criminality. READ MORE
We give a prize of $25 to the person who invents the best mystery story (in 250 words or less, and be sure to include a crime) based on the photograph provided in each issue. The story will be printed in a future issue. READ THE MOST RECENT WINNING STORY.
by Lee Lofland
A reasonable person might believe the court system in the United States is fairly straightforward—commit a crime, get arrested, go to court, pay a fine and/or begin a period of probation, or go directly to jail. However, it’s not that simple; each state has its own laws and court systems.
There are two types of juries in the US: petit juries, or trial juries, and grand juries. Petit juries serve in a public courtroom with a judge and attorneys present, where they hear evidence offered by both the prosecution and defense. Members of the public and media may attend trials heard by petit juries. At the conclusion of a trial, petit juries decide whether a defendant is not guilty or guilty.
The four commonwealths in the US—Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia—operate their own courts, as do territories, such as Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands. No two of these courts are identical. READ MORE
Acrostic puzzle by Arlene Fisher
Solve the clues to reveal an interesting observation about an author and their work! Shh! The solution to the puzzle will appear in the next issue. CURRENT ISSUE'S PUZZLE
by Mark Lagasse
Unscramble the letters of each numbered entry to spell the name of a famous sleuth. MOST RECENT PUZZLE