||Night Shadows Press
||Dec. 1, 2011
Nashville PI Sid Chance encounters Medicare fraud, drug trafficking, a crooked cop and a hired killer in one of his most challenging cases.
Barnes & Noble.com
Nashville Mystery Writer Chester D. Campbell
Medicare fraud, drug trafficking, a hired killer, a crooked cop, it's a nightmare scenario PI Sid Chance finds himself in when he takes a tough assignment—prove a young man just out of prison for a murder when he was twelve did not commit a new homicide. Everything is thrown upside down when Jaz LeMieux, the wealthy ex-cop working with him on the case, finds herself accused of a despicable crime, and the evidence is damning. When a hit man comes after Sid, all hell breaks loose.
He was a young man, dark as the back side of the moon, dreadlock tentacles crawling down his shoulders, brooding eyes filled with questions. Djuan Burden hesitated just inside the small medical equipment store in Nashville’s Green Hills section. It resembled the aftermath of a spring storm, shelves bare as though swept by the wind, scattered trash on the carpet. A stack of boxes tumbled in the doorway to the back room. An acrid odor added to the confusion. Splayed on a small desk at one side lay a few papers and yellow No. 2 pencils piled as if for a pick-up-sticks game. Were they moving out? He approached the desk, where someone sat facing the other direction, his head barely visible above the back of an executive chair.
Djuan tossed the document he’d brought onto the desk. “Sir,” he said in a deep but subdued voice, “we have a problem.”
The man said nothing. Didn’t move.
Djuan was about to speak in a more strident tone when he realized the smell he had first noticed was gunpowder, a once-familiar odor he had not experienced in years. He edged around the desk until a lifeless face came into view. A bullet hole in the forehead glared back at him like a vacuous third eye.
Face flushed with panic, Burden broke into a run for the door. He darted a frantic glance toward the street as he dashed from the building, headed for the old Ford with the bruised front fender. Blinded momentarily by the afternoon sun, he groped for the door handle, crammed himself into the small sedan. The tires screeched as he swirled around, corrected, and veered toward the street. Too fast, he realized, as it attracted the attention of a tall man in a dark business suit who glared at him from the sidewalk. Though he had been driving only a short time, the skill had come naturally to him. Now his driving instinct held but one message—get the hell out of here!
Traffic along Hillsboro Pike slowed his progress, although it hardly rivaled the impending home-bound rush hour. He ducked his head as a police car passed, traveling in the opposite direction. The specter of that cold, dark prison cell still haunted his befuddled mind.
The following morning the phone rang on Sid Chance’s old-fashioned roll top desk, a battered piece of family history he’d inherited from his grandfather, a crusty old Nashville cop. He turned to the window, where a glowing spring morning showered sunlight over a precision rank of buttercups that marched alongside the parking lot.
Sid checked the caller ID, lifted the phone, and said, “Morning, Jaz. What’s up?”
“Trouble is what’s up. Are you ready to take on the Metro Nashville Police Department?”
She’d had major problems with the media lately over a claim that she had made racial slurs about one of her company’s employees. Sid asked, “Are the cops after you, too?”
“This isn’t about me, Sid. I’m sure you read the story where Djuan Burden got arrested for murder again.” This was not the successful business executive Jasmine LeMieux voice but that of passionate crusader Wonder Woman.
“I did,” he said, unsure what this might be leading to. “Out of prison only six months, and he’s right back to his old tricks. Shot a store owner named Omar Valdez, as best I recall.”
“Your memory is prodigious.”
“Memory, the warder of the brain.”
“Where did that come from?”
She sighed. “Okay, Mr. Shakespeare. This situation is dramatic enough. Burden’s granny doesn’t think he shot that man, and Marie agrees with her.”
Sid stroked his short black beard in wonder. What brought this on? Marie Wallace was Jaz’s live-in housekeeper, a long-time family retainer who had been her nanny when she was a child. In earlier times she had served as a welcome buffer between Jaz and her autocratic mother.
“Burden’s grandmother, Rachel Ransom, is an old friend of Marie’s,” Jaz said. “She explained the situation and asked Marie what to do.”
“From what I read, she’d better hire the best criminal defense lawyer in town.”
“She can’t afford it.”
“So what’s Option Number Two?”
“I called Arnie Bailey. Bailey, Riddle and Smith has a couple of sharp young lawyers who’re interested in trying their hand in Criminal Court. Arnie said they would take the case pro bono.”
Sid carried the phone over to the coffee pot near the window and refilled his cup. “I’ll bet the DA won’t have a pair of neophytes sitting at the prosecution table.”
“True. So Arnie’s boys will need some expert professional help.” Her voice had turned softer, with the persuasive touch he knew so well.
“Do I detect Messrs. Pro and Bono headed my way?” Sid asked.
“No. Mrs. Ransom can afford your fee, and I’ll volunteer my help.”
Jaz’s first priority was her position as Chairman of the big travel center chain called Welcome Home Stores. She had inherited a majority interest, but she wasn’t concerned with its day-to-day operations. That allowed her time to work occasionally as an associate with Sidney Chance Investigations, something she had done since Sid’s involvement in a troublesome toxic chemical pollution case a few months back.
“Have you talked to Bart about Djuan Burden?” he asked.
“Bart’s no help. He arrested the boy for murder back when Djuan was twelve years old, but this shooting took place out Hillsboro Pike. That’s West Precinct territory.”
Bart Masterson, one of their fellow players in the Miss Demeanor and Five Felons Poker Club, was a homicide detective in the East Precinct. That took him out of play in this case, but from what Sid had read in the newspaper, this was a situation where a little help on the inside could be crucial.
Sid took a moment to consider the role of Marie Wallace. He respected her as a strong, discerning woman. He recalled how she had seen through her grandson’s attempts to cover up a disturbing incident from his past that provided a significant clue in the pollution case. But she hadn’t faced the kind of people he’d dealt with in a nearly thirty-year career as a National Park Service ranger and a small town police chief.
“I’m not sure Marie has it right this time,” he said.
“Why don’t you reserve judgment until you’ve talked with Djuan’s grandmother?”
“Look, Jaz, I’m still a rookie at this private investigator business. This sounds like a pretty iffy way to further my reputation as a PI.”
“If he’s innocent, you’ll prove it, Sid.”
He started to push a little harder but shook his head in resignation, acknowledging further argument at this stage would prove useless. She had worked persuasion to a fine art. “Okay. Let’s get with Mrs. Ransom and see where it stands, but I’m not promising anything. Have you had time to dig up some background on Burden?”
“Nothing good. He’s been behind bars since he was in the sixth grade. Now he’s twenty-five. I have news reports on the trial. I’ll fax it to you.”
A little later, Sid sat in his office near RiverGate Mall in suburban Madison, digesting the file on the child murderer. The boy’s father had deserted the family long before the night Djuan fatally shot a man more than twice his age. His young mother possessed a lengthy rap sheet, spending much of her time in and out of court on drug charges. She struggled to provide food for the table. As the oldest child, Djuan felt it his responsibility to help keep clothes on the backs of his younger siblings. He did it by taking to the streets in the projects where they lived, slinking about in the darkness, stealing and selling drugs. One night at the tender age of twelve, he sold four dime bags of pot to a young man who complained of poor quality and threatened to seize the boy’s drug supply. During the argument that followed, the youngster pulled out a pistol and shot him. A kid standing nearby saw what happened. They arrested Djuan the next day. The judge sentenced him to fifteen years in prison after a guilty plea.
Sid found it all too familiar. During his ten years as police chief in Lewisville, a small town southwest of Nashville, he had witnessed the inevitable destruction of young lives from poverty and drugs. It affected communities of every size. He had never seen a case where the killer was so young, though. The conventional wisdom said prisons served as breeding grounds for future violence.
Was that the real story behind Djuan Burden?
I hated to dash her expectations, but statistics said Djuan Burden was guilty as hell.
Chester D. Campbell’s second Sid Chance mystery, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE MURDEROUS, is an enjoyable mystery that finds Special Forces-turned-park ranger-turned-private investigator Sid Chance embroiled in two murders that on the surface are not connected at all. But when a hired killer comes after Chance just when it seems he is about to prove that they are, Sid and his longtime friend Jaz LeMieux are going to be lucky to come out with their reputations and their necks intact!
This book had a unique plot with enough surprises to keep the reader engaged and off balance. Sid and Jaz are easy to like, and the bad guys are easy to NOT like, making for a natural “good vs. evil” flow to the book. There are crooked cops, hired killers, and Mexican drug cartels to keep the action moving. I particularly liked how the author established early on how the hero Sid Chance had morals and character developed over years of community service, first as Special Forces soldier in Vietnam, then as a police officer and park ranger. Not your average PI, Chance’s character is key to his decision to take on a case that seems clearly open and shut when a recently released young man is accused of another murder.
Police mystery fans will enjoy this book, as will veterans looking for something outside the military genre that features a veteran as the hero.
Rob Ballister, reviewed for Military Writers Society of America
As the Pot Turns
The Good, The Bad And The Murderous is the second installment of the Sid Chance mystery series by octogenarian author Chester D. Campbell. Readers, who have been pining for Chance and the indomitable Jaz LeMieux, leave the Jill and Greg McKenzie series behind for yet another breakneck speed, action-packed, Chance storyline.
A wrongfully accused ex-con, dirty cops, Medicare fraud, racial tensions, false accusations, and a gun for hire are just some of the elements the story contains. Chance and LeMieux hunt for clues to clear their client and themselves of wrongdoing. Yet things have to get a whole lot worse before any hope of resolution can take root.
He Did it Again!
Kind readers know that I am a fan of Chester Campbell’s writings. He “gets” detective fiction on a gut-level. There is no contrived dialog, questionable literary tactic or predictable plot turn. Mystery buffs, who are strong aficionados of the Chekhov’s gun technique, most certainly celebrate the author’s solemn dedication to not litter the plot with confusing and pointless elements. Instead, there is no hole in the plot and all loose ends are tightened neatly before the last page. (Did I mention that this book is superbly edited?)
The Second Rail
Another aspect that makes the storyline quite endearing is the topic of police corruption. It is tackled with respect for the profession but a candor that bespeaks a reality, which we frequently prefer to ignore. Although fictional, the frustration and anger that corruption at this level leaves behind is palpable in Campbell’s writings.
Pick up a copy of The Good, The Bad And The Murderous for yourself and also buy some for the whodunit lovers on your holiday or special occasion shopping list.
Sylvia Cochran, reviewed for The Deepening
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Chester D. Campbell