||Capital Crime Press
When a Texas oil heiress goes missing and bodies begin to fall it is up to newly-licensed P.I. Kristin Van Dijk and her cantankerous partner, Otis Millett, to confront dangerous Beaumont gangsters, prying Dallas cops, slick crooked lawyers, and a buxom waitress who smells like Evening in Paris. This is an anything-but-straightforward Baby Shark crime adventure that hits the ground running for its life from bullet-riddled page one to a hell-of-a-surprise climax you never saw coming.
Robert Fate Cyber Address
Exceprt from Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues by Robert Fate
NO ONE SPOKE.
We listened to country music and the hum of the air conditioner as we drove southwest out of Dallas. There was an enormous full moon that illuminated the ranch land—flat, open range with dark bumps of sleeping cattle, and here and there tall trees. It was bright enough out for a car to drive without headlights.
Chuck left the highway and took us on a narrow gravel road for a while, then moved beneath a tall wooden archway onto a hard-packed dirt road.
We were miles from any neighbors. It was just us putting up dust until we arrived at an ancient ranch house. A soft light from a table lamp burned in the curtained front window. The effect was charming and old fashioned. I could see as the car lights swung across the little place that it had had a whole other house built onto it. The original modesty was little more than a façade for the sprawl of new construction.
Chuck parked the Cadillac under a stand of huge, white-barked sycamores near a new Chevy pickup, one of those big three-quarter ton trucks with some impressive Texas Longhorns sticking up from the hood.
Chuck got out and told me to come with him. I smelled cattle on the heavy night air as I followed him to the middle of the spacious yard.
He stopped there and glanced back. We were waiting for Cecil, who was still struggling out of the car.
“This guy we’re here to pick up don’t like strangers,” Chuck said to me, keeping his voice down. “He’s a little peculiar, see, and he may get rowdy. So, stay out of the way. Don’t get involved. Don’t look him in the face. Don’t talk to him even if he talks to you. Just open and close doors, you know, help out like that until we can get him in the car. Then, you’ll do the driving. Me and Cecil’ll handle the rest of it. You understand?”
I nodded, and Chuck spun his keys for a moment. Ching-ching. “You ain’t gonna have no trouble driving a new Caddy, are you?”
“Can’t imagine why I would.”
Chuck nodded his approval. “What kind of work do you usually do?”
“Rodeo,” I lied, probably because of those Longhorns on the truck.
“Yeah,” I confirmed, punching my ticket to hell, so to speak.
Chuck squinted. “How old’re you?”
“If it’s any of your business, twenty-one.”
“I doubt that,” he said, which taught me a lesson about telling the truth. He spun his keys, and squinted at me some more. “What’s your event?”
Chuck made a face indicating his disbelief, and shook his head. “First pool, now rodeo.” He looked over at Cecil who had caught up with us. “Did you hear that?”
“Our driver gal here ropes calves in the rodeo.”
“She does, huh?” Cecil chuckled.
In fact, they both had a good chuckle as they continued on to the house. I thought it was kind of funny, too, but I kept that to myself.
Chuck was across the big porch and to the front door before his partner could pull himself up the two steps.
“I can’t remember a September this fucking humid,” Cecil reminded us, as if we might have forgotten.
“We’re due for a rainy spell, I reckon,” Chuck told him.
As I waited in the yard for the football player to take the high ground, I had a chance to look around.
There was a sky full of stars, though with the moon so bright they weren’t too showy. About the only sounds that far out in the country came from the insects. Although, I did hear some coyotes yipping off in the distance when we first got out of the car.
I followed the lumbering lineman across the porch. Chuck already had the front door open.
“You wait here, Rodeo,” Chuck said, relinquishing the squeaky screen door to Cecil before stepping into the quiet house. “Bobby Jack. It’s Chuck, Bobby Jack. Chuck and Cecil,” he called out as he started up the dark hall, his boot steps resounding on the hardwood floor.
Cecil, short of breath from conquering the porch stairs, gathered himself before giving me a hard look and issuing orders. “I’m giving you a piece of advice. Don’t say another fucking word till we’re back in the city.”
He clumped away after Chuck up the dark echoing hall.
I closed the screen door and stepped into the entryway where I was determined to be quiet. I glanced around. The limited light came from the dim, bug-covered porch bulb and the soft glow of the lamp in the front window.
So far, things were going as planned. Using these guys to locate Bobby Jack had been the first challenge.
Now, if the rest would go as smoothly.
I waited where I’d been told for a few minutes, listening to the silence, before moving into the parlor.
The table lamp provided passable light for the small space. There was a door to an adjacent room. It was closed. The wallpaper and furniture was Montgomery Ward, circa 1930. Someone’s grandma had done the crocheted doilies displayed on the backs and arms of the prim sofa and traditional wingback chairs.
There was a group of framed photographs arranged on top of the old upright piano, and I had just looked at them when I heard voices. Arguing voices. I heard glass break, and the voices growing louder.
I stepped back into the hall, and made sure I could get to my .32.
Heavy footsteps. I listened.
They were coming up the hall.
No, they left the hall. A door slammed somewhere.
I heard something scrape across the floor—maybe furniture being pushed around.
The door on the other side of the parlor slammed open. I hadn’t expected that. My narrow view of the room through the hall door didn’t allow me to see much.
I pushed farther back out of the light, which constricted my view into the little parlor even more. So I was surprised when Cecil limped backward into view. He was terrified of something that I couldn’t see from my angle.
The big man scuttled back until he knocked over the table and lamp.
A shotgun blast rang out, hitting Cecil in the chest, and startling me out of my wits.
I pulled up my pant leg and grabbed my pistol as Cecil tumbled back, crashed through the front window, and fell out onto the porch with a sickening thump. He was dead before the thin cotton curtains that he pulled with him through the demolished sash had time to float down and settle around him.
It grew quiet. The smell of burnt gunpowder was thick in the air.
It was even darker where I was with the only light that remained coming in from the porch. Sweat dripped from my face. I held as still as I could, but adrenaline had my knees trembling. I couldn’t hear a sound.
Given my partial hearing loss from a beating I’d suffered a few years back, I was never certain that I was aware of everything there was to hear. I was more concerned that the killer would hear the pounding of my heart.
I forced myself not to react to the metallic clack-clack of the shotgun’s pump action and the hit, bounce, and roll of the spent casing.
From the depths of the house, I heard Chuck approaching—ching-ching. He arrived in the room adjacent to the parlor, the room in which I assumed the killer still stood with a loaded shotgun in his hands.
“What’ve you done, Bobby Jack?” Chuck asked the killer in a conversational tone of voice. He crossed the parlor, moved around the upset furniture, and looked out the broken window at Cecil’s body. I saw his shoulders sag. “Aw, Christ, BJ. This weren’t our idea, you know. Vahaska sent us out here.”
Chuck turned back, his boots squeaking in the broken glass, and faced the maniac that had just murdered his friend.
“He’s coming up. He’s driving up from Beaumont and he wants you to lock your guest in the basement and meet him in Dallas. He said you’d know what to bring. His words. I’m telling you, BJ, he’s coming out here hisself if you don’t getcher ass back with me. Come on now. No more nonsense. Let’s get on some clothes and get going.”
No more nonsense? Unbelievable. I was in a mad house. I was already in up to my neck, and there were still things to get done.
I listened hard as they returned to wherever they’d come from, Chuck continuing to chat with Bobby Jack as if he were a rational human being instead of a bloodthirsty murderer.
“Maybe Cecil didn’t come atcha just right,” Chuck said. “But ask yourself, was shootin’ him the right thing to do?”
I remembered that the screen door squeaked, so I tiptoed into the parlor to look out the window at Cecil. I didn’t know the ex-ballplayer. Still, I was sorry that every day had been painful for him because of his knees. And who was he to Bobby Jack that he should be gunned down in cold blood?
A second shotgun blast—from the interior of the house.
It was an unwelcome sound. Not a shock, though. Something had told me that Bobby Jack wasn’t finished. And moments later another shotgun blast. Two violent sounds bracketed by a period of utter silence—eerie. I had to believe that he’d shot Chuck.
A faint sound coming my way. I turned my head, used my best ear.
Footsteps. A floor squeak. The hall.
I moved across the parlor, into the darkness of the adjacent room, into the original dining room. From there, I watched by the almost non-existent light from the porch as Bobby Jack entered the parlor from the hall. He was in more darkness than light.
I could just make out that he was slim, muscular, naked—late twenties, maybe. He carried a short-barreled, pistol grip 12-gauge.
The sick animal went to the window and stared out toward the road for a few moments before raising the gun to shoot Cecil again. He pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. He’d used the three-shell capacity of the weapon.
I had earlier eased the hammer back on my revolver. I wanted single-action if I had to put that killer down. I was back in the dark room and hunkered down below the level of the dining room table, so I didn’t think he could see me even if he looked in my direction.
He showed no emotion as he turned away from the window, stopped in the middle of the parlor, and just stood there. I could see the slight motion of his jaw. It was like he was grinding his teeth.
Hell, if I’d been Bobby Jack, I’d have been grinding my teeth, too.
Graceful as a panther, he moved through the archway and disappeared into the hallway. I stayed where I was without moving for several minutes and considered my situation.
I didn’t think he knew I was there, but I couldn’t be sure. And—he was moving on bare feet in his own house.
As Otis, my partner, would say, I had to double-watch my ass.
I wiped the sweat from my face. I took my purse off my shoulder, put it on the floor, and removed my boots and socks.
I had a job to finish.
Library Journal - Starred Review
Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues
Library Journal - Starred Review
P.I. Kristin Van Dijk charges through her second entry (after Baby Shark) in this tremendously satisfying glimpse into the underside of 1950s Dallas/Ft. Worth. She and mentor-partner Otis Millett have been hired to find kidnapped teen oil-heiress Sherry Beasley, who needs to be kept safe until her upcoming 18th birthday. They retrieve her once, along with lots of cash, but free-spirit Sherry escapes almost immediately. Unfortunately, crime boss Vahaska and his entourage of unsavory characters desperately want to find Sherry since she witnessed a double murder. Moving adeptly from pool halls into the ritziest hotel in Dallas, Otis and Kristin keep asking themselves whose money is in their safe and how it ended up in a remote farmhouse. Mix in a few dead bodies and an attractive detective from the Dallas PD, and you've got one hot little crime story. Fate's witty dialog, colorful characters, and nonstop action make this pulp-style piece sparkle. Let's hope for more in this series. Highly recommended.
—Teresa L. Jacobsen, Solano Co. Library, CA
Front Street Reviews
Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues
Reviewed by Barb Radmore
Oh Baby, Baby. She is back, all rough, tough and soft around the edges. Kristin Van Dijk, who we met in Baby Shark, has returned to her crime fighting, but now she is Otis' partner in his PI business.
Kristin and Otis are hired to locate and rescue a kidnapped girl, who ends up more difficult to find and keep than they expected. What seemed like a simple rescue mission becomes a convoluted case of deception, greed, and dishonor.
In this installment of Kristen's adventures it is the characters that take center stage. Baby Shark introduced us to the main characters, but that book was driven by the action, the violence. Beaumont Blues has taken the promise of the first one and given the characters a chance to grow. It is no less exciting, no less blood stained than the first one, but it also shows a maturity in development. It would have been easy for Robert Fate to rest on the momentum of Baby Shark, to recreate the "little lost girl fights back" theme but he was able to step back and let her mature. Otis has a bigger role this time as the friendly boss and father figure, and he fills it well. The assorted other characters that blast their way through the action are well drawn with Fate's usual tongue in cheek spin on motive and morality.
But, of course, it is also the action driven plot that makes this a one-sitting book. As the action progresses faster than a bullet, or is that as fast as the numerous bullets, it maintains the velocity of non-stop suspense and thrills. It still can have scenes such as "It looked as if we were in the middle of a Popeye comic strip with all the bodies strewn about. But it was no cartoon, it was a slaughterhouse. Blood everywhere." Kristin has matured, not mellowed. The ending is satisfyingly unexpected, with the humor that makes these books so creative and welcomed.
Lesa's Book Critiques
Baby Shark's Beaumont Blues
Baby Shark is back in Robert Fate's second novel, and once again, the body count is high, the action non-stop, and the story makes your pulse race. Kristin Van Dijk (Baby Shark) is now a private investigator, a partner in Otis Millett's agency. What are the two partners doing now? Otis sums it up when he says, "Well, take a hopped up heiress, a couple stiffs, stir some speed into the mix along with a hundred G's in cash, and I'd say you're gonna come up with something nasty for sure."
Kristin and Millett thought they were rescuing a kidnapped heiress. Throw in drugs, a crime boss, a streetsmart waitress, and a sexy cop. Set the whole story down in 1950's Ft. Worth/Dallas, and you have a successful suspense novel. Otis insists, "We ain't killed nobody who didn't come out here set on killing us." Kristin Van Dijk and Otis Millett are just waiting for the right actors to play them in an action film. Fate has another winner on his hands. Hollywood, are you reading this?
—Lesa Holstine, Lesa’s Book Critiques
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