In a lighthearted mystery series, Hamilton College coach, Matthias Jones, is aided in his investigations by a host of humorous small town characters, and solves murder mysteries set in and around the fictional town of Hamilton, New Hampshire. The college's maestro is shot to death at the music conservatory.
The Fitton Chronicles
Beloved coach, Lark Larsen is seen fleeing from the music conservatory, where the body of murdered maestro is sprawled across the music room floor. Tests show that Lark fired the murder weapon, yet three people close to the maestro were within a hundred yards of the conservatory at the time of the murder. Jones confronts the suspects with the assistance of Bucky Driscoll.
When it came to money Lark held onto the buck like a tight- fisted first lieutenant, fighting to the death for a chunk of strategic ground. Jones dragged the phone cord tight as Mookie pinged the steel hammer against the exposed copper pipes. " I canít hear you, Lark. What are you saying? " He stepped onto the gray patio stones and closed the slider door, but the hammering persisted. " Youíre saying Professor Neusbaum owes you money? "
† " That, Matthias, is the understatement of this year, last year, and every year! "
† " Calm down. "
† " How can I calm down? Ten thousand of my hard earned dollars have gone down the drain to purchase someÖ some Steinway! "
† The barrel chested Mookie pushed open the slider with his work boot. In the morning sun, his bristly, unshaven cheeks and short, matted haircut gave him the appearance of a criminal having just escaped the penitentiary. His rounded, frog blue eyes blinked slowly, but his protruding lips never moved when he spoke. " You gut problems. "
† " Mookie, I brought you over her to fix the washers in my kitchen sink. Now, youíve got the whole wall torn apart and that brother of yours- "
† " My twin brother, " he said, raising his index finger.
Jones pinched the bridge of his nose as Lark came back on the line. " Well, what should I do? "
† " Youíve known Neusbaum for years. Heís your big buddy. You knew him when he played piano at weddings. Now he conducts the Prince William Symphony. Canít you reason with him? "
† " Reason with him? I want to kill him! He has my money! "
† " Call L.G. and take legal action. Very simple. "
† " You gut big problems, " said Mookie.
† " Will you just hold it, Mookie? "
† Mookie pushed his lips downward and stepped back inside.
† " Touchy, touchy. Arnie said youíd be touchy. "
† " Now, listen, Lark. I suggest you and Flo get into your car and take a long drive somewhere. Cool off and talk to L.G. " The ensuing dead air on the line unnerved Jones even more. " Lark? Hello, Lark. " He closed his eyes, shook his head and moved back inside as Mookie banged the pipe again.
† " You gut big problems. "
† " You said that, " said Jones. He went to hang up the phone, but the wall phone now lay on the counter next to the jagged hole in the kitchen wallpaper and plaster. He maneuvered the receiver into place. " I hope you guys know what youíre doing. "
† Mookie opened his blue eyes wide and tilted his head. He had the annoying habit of pushing air into one cheek, inflating the cheek, and moving the air into the other cheek. " My brother and me, weíve been in business for twenty years. Bisbane Plumbing, Twice as Nice. "
† " What exactly is the problem? " asked Jones.
† " A.P.S. "
† Jones grabbed his clipboard off the counter. He did not want to arrive late at baseball camp. " Whatís A.P.S.? "
† The cellar door opened and an exact replica of Mookie, down to the blue eyes, whiskered cheeks, and scruffy hair, stepped into the kitchen. " A.P.S. Everybody knows about A.P.S. Sooner or later youíre gonna get A.P.S. "
† " Guys, Iím on my way to my baseball camp. "
† " Listen to him, Kookie. His baseball camp. Everybody knows Arnie Dewars put up the cash for that camp. "
† " Donít remind me, " said Jones. " Now, whatís A.P.S.? "
† " I heard Arnie got Ricky Johnson from the Padres to run the camp, " said Mookie.
† " I wanted Ricky. I went to school with him. But he couldnít make it with his schedule. "
† " He dump ya, huh? "
† " No, he didnít dump me. Now, what is A.P.S.? "
† " Antiquated Plumbing Syndrome. Hey, you gut bad pipes, Yakima, " said Kookie.
† " Real bad, " said Mookie.
Seeing duplicate copies of both husky guys with their prison cut, peppered hair and pudgy blue eyes, pushed his patience. Kookie started pushing air between his cheeks. " So, whatís the upshot? "
† " Youíre lucky ya didnít burst ya pipes, " said Mookie.
† " Can I have another orange juice? "
Jones stared at him. Then Kookie moved forward, tracking dirt from the cellar across his kitchen tiles. " Me, too? And more cereal. "
† " Donít you guys eat breakfast? I have to go. Do whatever you have to do. Just fix the plumbing. "
† " What about breakfast? " asked Kookie.
† " Help yourself. Iím out of here. I have twenty-five boys waiting for me at my camp. "
† " Arnieís camp, " said Mookie at the refrigerator.
Jones shook his head, grabbed his cell phone off the table and headed out the front door as the pounding began again. The air had warmed and morning shadows cut across the commonís carpeted grass. He took a deep breath and hurried down his brick walkway walk to his red jeep. The stout stone clock towerís tarnished brass hands toward nine oíclock.
† He pushed the picket fence gate. A car engine as loud as a passing jet, caught his attention beyond the commonís granite posts. Larkís long faded brown bomber ran the stop sign and his tires skidded as he rounded the Main Street corner. An oncoming compactís high-pitched horn sounded several times and the little car veered toward the sidewalk. Lark accelerated past the storefronts, but did not stop at L.G.ís law office. The car tires again screeched against the asphalt at the Hamilton Street traffic lights. Luckily the lights changed, but Lark fishtailed, nearly sideswiping a small blue pickup truck and a yellow Volkswagen parked along the curb. Then he raced down Hamilton Street toward the college.
† The rapping inside his house continued as Jones attempted to start the jeep. He had a slight skipping problem until Arnie Dewars fiddled with the wires yesterday afternoon. The engine backfired and sputtered out. He set the clipboard on the seat and pumped the gas. Like a slow sunrise, the engine finally caught and blue smoke pushed along his fence. The jeep threatened to stall along the common as he shifted. He wanted to find Arnie, but baseball camp was about to begin.
† Not landing Ricky Johnson was a major disappointment. Ricky was supposed to tell him today whether he was available for a speaking engagement to benefit Hamiltonís athletic programs later in the summer. Jones stopped at the corner and glanced at the Hamilton Street lights. He shook his head at Larkís erratic driving as he brought his jeep up the far side of the common, but he also hoped Lark would not embarrass himself in front of the distinguished Neusbaum.
† At the traffic light, the baseball diamondís green grass, dirt infield and bright white bases were visible beyond the little bowl shaped football stadium named after Lark. Jones slowed and as the light turned green he cautiously released the clutch through the intersection. Only a few cars moved along Main Street on this quiescent summer morning.
† His backfiring jeep dipped down the Hamilton Street hill into the shadows of the towering hemlocks and maples. The road swept by Larsen Stadium. Jones put on his blinker for the service road, cutting between the gym and the baseball fieldís long chain link fence. The kids were scattered across the grass and smooth infield and Mac Connersís white Honda was parked along the fence. As coach of St. Patís Mac had always opposed him on athletic field, but while on vacation at a Hamilton Bay cottage, agreed to help him run the camp for a week. He spotted the hefty Mac, wearing a blue sleeve baseball, shirt, up at bat against one of the kids.
† Jonesí grin dropped as his jeep strained along the fence. When he finally stopped and turned off the key near the gate behind the aluminum bleachers, the engine stayed on and sounded like the bubbles in a pot of boiling water. When the jeep finally shut off, he shook his head, grabbed his clipboard and stepped outside. The crack of the bat echoed off the brick library walls to the right. A long fly ball went sailing over the three kids in right field and bounced up the grassy, tree lined hill to the Shaker style music conservatory. Jones cupped his hand at the gate. " The old duffer still has it! "
† Mac turned to the right and pointed the wood bat toward the fence. The kid lobbed the ball. Mac swung hard and fell on his knee. He quickly got up and the kid fired another pitch. Again Mac connected and the arching fly ball cleared the yellow and green three hundred foot sign behind the center field chain link fence. Mac walked up to Jones and with a cocky look, handed him the bat.
† " Match that one, big guy. "
† " Not bad for an old man, " said Jones, looking across the field. Arnie Dewarsí powder blue pick up looped around the library parking lot beyond right field.
† " Maybe youíd like to take a few swings, " said Mac, wiping his brow.
† " I have camp to run, " said Jones, smiling.
† " Weíre lucky we even got the field this morning, " said Mac.
† " This idiot comes running on the field screaming about not having an official permit. "
† " What? " asked Jones.
† " Yeah, a mealy mouth little guy with glasses and a Bermuda shorts. Police shirt. Looked like he was on his way to summer camp. He drove a beat up little brown car marked, Campus Security. "
† " Bucky Driscoll, " said Jones.
† " He threatened to write us up, " said Mac. " He said we needed written permission to be here. "
† " I hope you told him to beat it, " said Jones.
† " Well, he wrote this ticket and said the tow trucks were on the way. "
† Jones shook his head. " Bucky would get in trouble standing stillÖ Letís round up the boys. " He blew his brass whistle. The group converged around the coaches. Arnie Dewars, cigarette hanging from his mouth, clawed his way over the right field chain link fence. He was stuck for a few seconds before he fell onto the right field grass. When he stood, he picked up his dark rimmed glasses and quickly lit another cigarette.
† " Who the heck is that? " asked Mac.
† " The sponsor of this camp. I can still see him bugging Ricky last month at the Colonial House. " Jones exhaled.
† " Mac, can you get the boys set up? Iíll take care of Arnie. "
† Mac nodded and Jones trotted into the outfield. Arnie wore a Yankeeís jersey and waved in a wide arc. " Matth-i-as! "
† " Arnie. "
† " Looks like Iím right on time. "
† " Time for what? " Larkís car now zoomed past Arnieís pickup and continued toward the music conservatory.
† " You look like you could use some help, " said Arnie, elbowing Jones in the ribs. " Not as young as you used to be, eh? "
† " Look, Arnie, we appreciate the funding for the camp. "
† " Everybody knows you couldnít raise the dough. "
† " Thatís not true. We had plenty of pledges "
† " Right. " Arnie blew smoke around Jonesí face.
† " And put out the cigarette. "
† " Canít take the smoke, eh? "
† Jones raised his index finger. " Look, Arnie... "
† " Do you know who youíre dealing with, Matth-i-as? I played semi-pro ball. "
† " You? " Jones could not halt Arnie from trekking to the infield. " Where did you play semi-pro? "
† " The Yankees team in Roswell, New Mexico. "
† They reached the infield dirt. " Isnít that where the all those alien stories started? "
† " True stories, " said Arnie, exhaling again.
† " Arnie, put out the cigarette. "
† " Oh... yeah, " he said, throwing it on the dirt. Jones shook his head and snuffled out the cigarette with his sneaker. " Hey, Maccer! "
† A different sound cracked off the library bricks. Jones looked to the kids passing the baseballs by the third baseline. Then he heard a dog barking inside the open conservatory window. " That sounded like a gunshot. "
† " Youíve been on too many cases, Matth-i-as. " Jones shook his head and turned toward the conservatory.
† " For once, Arnie, I might agree with you. " He turned toward the kids. " Come on, Arnie, weíll get you a glove. "
† " Glove? I want a few swings, " said Arnie as they crossed the infield.
† " Letís start with the glove, hot shot. " Jones flipped over the roaster page on his clipboard while Arnie pontificated about his playing days.
† " I led the league in doubles. Old double dare Dewars. "
† " Double dare? " asked Jones, looking up.
† " Theyíd give me the intentional, " said Arnie as he pounded the glove with his closed fist.
† " Iíd like to give you the intentional. "
† " What did you say, Matth-i-as? "
† " I said letís get this camp going. " Jones spun around when a distinct gunshot emanated from the conservatory and the dog barked again. " That was a shot. "
† " Little nervous about runniní the camp without Ricky Johnson? " asked Arnie as he poked Jones in the arm.
† " I tell you that was a shot. "
Jones retreated across the infield and picked up speed once he hit the outfield grass. Bucky Driscoll spun his little car across the library parking lot and disappeared behind the conservatory. Jones broke into a sprint and vaulted the fence like a gymnast in competition. He heard a loud car engine start on the far side of the building as he jaunted up the tree shaded slope. Larkís clunker raised the dust and careened onto the adjacent the athletic fields.
† " What the hell is going on here? "
† He reached the trees as Larkís car knocked over a soccer goal and scraped the curb onto Hamilton Street. The conservatoryís windows facing the library were open, but the only entrance was around the parking lot side. As Arnie cackled from the outfield, Jones paralleled the octagonal buildingís stone facade, and Lark fishtailed down Hamilton Street toward Route 32.
† Buckyís compact brown security car, front fender dented, was parked near the conservatory entranceís cement walk. Jones leaped up the weathered wood steps under the columns. He ran through the open barn board doors and up the inside stair treads. " Bucky! Bucky! "
† Gray quarry tile lobby rimmed the locked outside pane windows and the inner barn board walls. The area was deserted and the lower white paneled doors to the music hall were closed. Jones slipped across the red lobby runner, but when heard barking, he veered toward the main conservatory doors. Buckyís voice was muffled behind the door panels.† " Identify yourself. "
† " Matthias Jones, whatís going on in there? "
† " Who? "
† " Matthias. "
† Now Buckyís voice was on a megaphone behind the doors.
† " Clear the area! All personnel will exit the building. "
† " Bucky, Iím the only one in the building! Open the door. Whatís going on in there? " After a long silence Jones pounded the door. " Bucky, I heard shots. "
† " Oh, itís you, Matthias. The battery is dead on my short
† " Open up! "
† " I canít do that. We have a murder scene here! "
† Jones shook his head and pulled his cell phone from his back pocket as Arnie Dewers entered the lobby. " Hey, Matth-i-as! "
† " Do we need paramedics, Bucky? Who was shot? "
† " Said individual has expired. "
† Jones dialed George Stricklandís number at the police station.
† " Who? Whoís dead? "
† " Hamilton. Ned. "
† " Ned, get George. "
† " Heís playing checkers with Wendell. Wendellís lost four in a row. Although sometimes I think George lets him win. "
† " Ned, thereís been a murder. " The phone dropped, rattling Jonesí ear. Arnie lit a cigarette as he approached.
† " Arnie, stay at the outside door and donít let anyone inside. "
† " You a little shaky? "
† " No, Iím not shakyÖ Iím trying to get inside, but Bucky wonít let me in! "
† " Iíll get ya in. "
† Strickland came on the line. " Matthias, what happened? "
† " Somebody has been shot up here in the conservatory, " said Jones as Arnie gripped the brass doorknob. " Arnie this is a crime scene! "
† " Huh? " he asked and pulled open the door. " Hey, Buckster, what happened? "
† Bucky assumed a firing position and aimed at Arnie.
† " Get back, A.D. "
† " Whatís going on up there? " asked Strickland.
† A brisk air current through the open library side windows cooled Jonesí arms as he moved alongside Arnie. Professor Neusbaumís white hair flowed over the grainy floorboards. His arm was cuddled over a cello and the drawstring was two feet away, near the gray paneled wall and closed windowpanes. A wide maroon blood splotch radiated outward from a tiny bullet hole in the center of his pale green shirt. Four feet diagonally from the wall, a snub nosed handgun with a back handle and chamber, surrounded by a silver or aluminum frame lay on the wood. Neusbaumís German Shepherd watched Jonesí every move from a position between Neusbaum and the glossy black piano. Jones remembered Neusbaum playing Frisbee his daughter and dog on the common. " George, the maestro, Professor Neusbaum. He sure as hell looks dead. "
† " Iím already on my way. "
† " Wait, George. Lark was in here and just cut across the fields in his car toward Prince William! "
† " Lark? "
† " Lark. "
† " Iíll talk to you when I get there. "
† Jones cut the line. Bucky was still in a firing position.
† " Everybody outside. "
† " Chill out, will you, Bucky? Is he dead? " asked Jones.
† " Said victim has been immobilized. "
† " But is he dead? Lark was in here, " said Jones. " I canít believe Lark would actually shoot him. "
† " Get in the corridor or I will hold you in criminal contempt. "
† " Shut up, " said Jones, walking by Bucky.
† " Yeah, Buckster. Shut up, " said Arnie and then he produced a honking laugh.
† The dog reared up and showed his teeth. Jones stayed a dozen feet back. " Okay, boy. Okay, good dog. "
† " Hey, I know about dogs, " said Arnie.
† " I would stay back, Arnie. Heís not going to let you near his fallen master. " Neusbaum was not breathing.
† " Whaddaya afraid of the dog? " asked Arnie, laughing as he traipsed forward.
† The dog lunged, frothing at the mouth, and with a vicious growl snapped his sharp canines at Arnie. Arnie quickly scampered toward the orchestraís surrounding rehearsal rim. " Dog is nuts. "
† Back at the door Bucky zigzagged yellow crime scene tape across the door jam. " How is George Strickland supposed to get in here? "
† " We donít need the blue boys. This is a campus security investigation. "
† " No it isnít... " Jones panned the terraced orchestra rim back to Neusbaum, the cello, and the gun. The piano keys were exposed, but the rear of the piano was closed. From behind Jones felt the breezes from the library side windows again yet the windows behind Neusbaum were locked. " Why kill him and leave the gun? "
† " Larsen whimped out. The ex-coach is guilty of murder, " said Bucky. He unclipped his belt radio and banged it against a chair near the door. " Stupid battery. "
† " Did you see Lark in here? Did anyone see him in here? "
† Bucky flipped his notepad. " Said vehicle departed area via athletic fields at eight oí six am. "
† " Bucky, itís nine-fifteen. "
† Bucky looked at his humungous sports watch. He pushed a few of the pointed orange buttons, producing a number of tones, including a Westminster chime. " Correction, time adjusted for Daylight Savings. "
† " Donít you change the time in April? "
† " I never believed in daylight savings, " he said, hitting the radio with the butt of his hand. The speaker crackled. " Chief Strickland, Chief Strickland. "
† " Iím right here, Bucky, " said Strickland over the radio. Through the closed windows Jones saw the cruiser outside in the conservatory parking lot.
† " I have a 965 in the collegeís music conservatory. "
†" Why donít you start by getting this damned tape off the door. "
† Strickland and two younger cops were in the lobby. The cops chopped away the tape and moved into the conservatory. " Wendell is headed up 32 to Prince William. PWPD is coming the other way. "
† " Good, Larsen just killed the maestro, " said Bucky.
Arnie squatted down, snapped his fingers and tried to talk to the dog. Again the dogís body tensed and with his teeth exposed, shot toward Arnie. Arnie backtracked and hid behind Jones. " Crazy mutt! "
† " What is that dog doing in here? " asked Strickland.
† Jones stared at the gun. " Neusbaumís dog. "
† " Killer dog, " said Arnie, now standing with Bucky near the broken tape at the door.
† " Bucky, did you see Lark in here? " asked Strickland.
† " Negative. Suspect left in a 1978 Buick Electra. "
† Strickland peered out one of the library side windows.
† " Anybody else in the area that might have crawled out this window? "
† " Negative. "
† Strickland continued to look outside. " Then you really didnít see anyone in here? "
† " Negative. "
† " What? " asked Strickland as he turned and winced.
† " Affirmative. "
† " Did you or didnít you see anyone inside the conservatory? "
† " Crime scene was vacant, except for the stiff. "
† Strickland rolled his eyes. " All right, boys, letís get to work. "
† " What do you want me to do? " asked Bucky.
† " Get the hell out of here. "
† " Iím campus security. "
† " Then go keep the campus secure, " said Strickland, looking at Jones, near the gun. " Clayton and the rest of the Medical Examinerís people will be here within the hour. "
† Strickland creased his brow and turned toward the piano.
† " Shot in the back at close range. I wonder who the hell owns that gun. "
† " Iíll trace it, " said Bucky with his arms crossed.
† " I thought I told you to beat it, Bucky, " said Strickland.
† Bucky grimaced and spun around. " Iím filing an official letter of protest with Nigel Kent! "
† " You do that, " said Strickland as Bucky waved his arms and tripped over the broken crime scene tape.
† Strickland put his hands on his hips and stared at Arnie. " Iím goiní. Iím goiní. That dog is dangerous. "
† Arnie joined Bucky in the hallway. As both men moved away, Strickland faced Jones. " Why are you here so fast, Matthias? "
† " I was out at my baseball camp. I heard a shot, but there was a long pause between the first and second shot. I mean maybe a minute. "
† " Thatís odd. Unless the killer checked the Neusbaumís body and then made sure he was dead. " Strickland bent over Neusbaum. " I see one hit from the rear and thatís it. "
† Jones put his hand on Stricklandís shoulder. " You know weíre talking about Lark, George. "
† Strickland shook his head back as he stood. " Lark, has trouble remembering what day it is. "
† " You donít understand. Neusbaum owed Lark money. Ten thousand bucks. "
† Stricklandís expression soured. " Lark is cheap with the buck. But to say he killed Neusbaum. "
† " You donít understand. I just talked to him no more than half an hour ago. Neusbaum refused pay back the loan right now. Lark asked him for the money and he said, Ď Whatís your
† " Does Lark own a gun? "
† " I doubt it, " replied Jones, looking at Neusbaum. The dog stretched out again and placed his head on his front paws.
† " If Lark really killed him, itís the dumbest executed murder Iíve ever seen. "
† " It has all the earmarking of Lark as far as that goes, " said Jones.
† " Wendell or the Prince William boys will track down Lark before he crosses the notch. Lark is a tower of jelly. Heíll tell us everything we need to know. "