A desperate client begs Chauncey McFadden, Los Angeles PI, to find his gay lover who has disappeared. Although LAPD believes some discovered body parts belong to the missing paramour, Chauncey nonetheless agrees to investigate. The case quickly expands in scope and complexity as the missing man’s former co-workers at a large insurance company are discovered to have recently met their deaths under mysterious circumstances. Chauncey must thwart attempts on his own life and those closest to him to stop this enigmatic assassin’s brutal vendetta before it further escalates to epidemic proportions. The trail of bodies leads Chauncey throughout southern California and Mexico as he attempts to unravel twisting plots to bring the killer to justice.
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Mystery Masterpieces of Mayhem and Murder
A desperate client begs Chauncey McFadden, Los Angeles PI, to find his gay lover who has vanished. Although LAPD believes the victim to be deceased based upon randomly strewn body parts, Chauncey agrees to investigate and begins contacting the paramour’s former co-workers at a large insurance company to see if they know his whereabouts. However, the case quickly expands in scope and complexity as Chauncey learns each co-worker has met his death under mysterious and bizarre circumstances. The only common thread linking the victims is their former employer but this is a weak association at best. Chauncey dutifully ploughs through the circumstances of each death hoping the investigations lead to a common source. However, the attempts on his own life and those closest to him rain down fast and furious as he struggles against the brutal vendetta of this enigmatic assassin. The trail of bodies leads Chauncey throughout southern California and Mexico as he attempts to unravel twisting plots to bring the killer to justice.
“They found his body parts scattered hither and yon: a leg in Pasadena, an arm in Compton, the remains of his torso in Escondido and his head in Sacramento.” The little man sitting on the other side of my desk who’d identified himself as Quincy Quackenbush finished his sentence with a sigh and clasped his hands in apparent reverential remembrance.
“They can always use a good head in Sacramento,” I quipped without thinking, referring of course to the sorry state of affairs in our state’s capitol.
His pained look quickly elicited a personal apology. “I’m sorry, Mr. Quackenbush, the detective business tends to numb your sensitivities after a while. Start at the beginning and explain why you need my help.”
“My Pookie has disappeared,” he said in a tone bordering on religious piety.
I struggled for an appropriate response and finally asked, “Have you tried the lost and found?”
Damn, there I go again with the smart mouth.
“You don’t understand,” he replied impatiently with a touch of attitude. “Pookie is not a purloined pet.” He removed a pink silk handkerchief which cascaded over his jacket pocket and used it to dab imaginary tears from beneath his eyes. “He was quite human . . . my devoted companion and protégé. The police claim he’s been murdered . . . dismembered in a most cruel and heartless fashion.”
I wasn’t aware that dismemberment could be executed in any other fashion, but I successfully restrained my reckless tongue, at least on this occasion. At least I now knew who he was talking about.
“Please accept my condolences on the loss of a loved one, Mr. Quackenbush. Pookie’s death, and the manner in which he died, must be very traumatic for you. How can I help you?”
He squared the corners and folded his hanky, slipped it back inside its cubbyhole, puffed and patted it just so, and looked at me over the top of his spectacles. “I want you to find his killer. You are a detective, aren’t you?”
“That’s what the sign on my door says. Is there some reason you aren’t comfortable with having the police handle this?” Some of my clients were eccentric. Some were just plain weird. You never knew for sure until you reached the end of your first interview.
“They aren’t moving with sufficient alacrity in my opinion. My interactions with them have, sadly, been fruitless. Besides,” he continued with obvious disdain, “they are churlish dolts who, if left to their own devices, would write this off as a suicide.”
“Which police department have you been dealing with?” I asked, trying to establish jurisdictional responsibility.
“The local group of constabulary miscreants in L.A.,” he said, with yet another sigh. “Pookie and I live in Brentwood with our two cats, Heloise and Abelard.”
Brentwood? This guy had some coin. “I’ll be glad to look into this for you, Mr. Quackenbush. Before we proceed further, what’s Pookie’s real name?”
“How old was he?”
Quackenbush clearly was not comfortable divulging this sensitive information, but replied after a lengthy pause. “He was my age . . . forty-two.”
“I have to ask a couple of standard questions. Do you know anyone who’d want to kill Fabrice and why? Where was he killed? When was he killed?” I used Pelletier’s call name. I refused to call a grown man ‘Pookie.’
Quackenbush uncrossed his legs and reversed their position. “He disappeared without explanation a month ago. I filed a missing persons report with the police a week later. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to harm Pookie. He was such a gentle, sensitive soul who was incapable of causing umbrage.”
“Why did you wait a week to contact the police?”
Quackenbush looked pained and uncomfortable. “We had a little spat before he disappeared and I wanted to give him some time to think things over.”
“What was the spat about if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I do mind you asking, but if my response is absolutely necessary for your investigation I suppose I must comply.” There was an elongated pause with a dramatic sigh at both ends. “I had discovered Pookie had been in contact with one of his former lovers and confronted him with my suspicion. He denied the charge. He said his friendship with Don Diego de la Fuente was platonic and no cause for alarm.”
“Did you believe him?”
“Not in the least. Don Diego is a notorious mountebank who should have been reduced to capon status years ago.”
His reference to a castrated chicken prompted all sorts of visuals but I moved on. This case had the potential for a walk on the wild side. “What happened next?”
“Two weeks after I reported Pookie missing, I received a call from the LAPD. They had found some human remains and had reason to believe they were Pookie’s based upon a unique tattoo on one of the arms. They asked me to come down and identify the body.”
“Was it, in fact, Fabrice?” I prodded.
“I’m not sure. Admittedly, the tattoo looked like one Pookie had etched on his right arm, but being exposed to the elements and animals had caused some physical deterioration which made positive identification impossible, at least in my mind.”
“Do you know why all his body parts were found in the L.A. area except his head?”
“I haven’t a clue,” Quackenbush said, suddenly looking weary.
“Other than the tattoo, has any other forensic proof been uncovered to definitely establish the body parts as belonging to Fabrice? For example, did they find a hand to allow them to lift fingerprints, or teeth to help identify dental records?”
“Not that I’ve been told. The Keystone Cops are basing their identification solely upon the tattoo―Pookie had it inked based upon a design he created himself. I regret being summoned to assist in the inquiry. For all eternity, my last memory of Pookie may turn out to be his body parts in a bag, like pieces of poulet sold at the market.” Quackenbush dabbed his dry eyes again for reasons not apparent to me.
“Did Fabrice have any family?”
Quackenbush held his hand over his heart. “I’m all the family he had. He was orphaned at an early age and raised in a foster home. I might add that he was sexually abused during this childhood which inflicted severe emotional damage upon him.”
“Other than the spat, are you aware of any other reason Fabrice may have disappeared?”
“He told me only that he needed to get away for a few days. The police have hit a dead end and, without additional information, I doubt if the investigation will move beyond its current standstill. I was summoned to the police station―what a horrid place; a narrow suffocating chamber of dogmatism.”
I hesitated, wanting to choose my words carefully. “This isn’t a pleasant thing to say, but the person or persons who killed Fabrice didn’t just want him dead, they wanted to make a statement. Dismemberment is usually caused by a perp who is so consumed with rage that he can satiate his feelings of hostility only by totally denigrating the victim. It’s possible this could be the work of a wacko serial killer. I’ll check around to see if any other similar murders have occurred in this manner. If not, the killer may very well be a past or current acquaintance of Fabrice who harbored some deep-seated grudge. I don’t want to alarm you, but that individual may be an acquaintance of yours as well.”
Quackenbush turned pale, gripped the arms of his chair in alarm and rose halfway to his feet. “Oh my word. Do . . . do . . . you mean I could be in jeopardy as well?”
I tried to soothe the agitated soul and said calmly, “I’m just raising the possibility that it may be someone in your mutual social network. It’s not likely you’re in danger personally or you’d also be scattered around the L.A. basin like the contents of a mortuary after a tornado.”
Not again! I simply have to work harder on my bedside manner.