The year is 1962 and Carson Reno, once again, gets himself into situations that would be better left alone. A Memphis client hires Carson to prove infidelity, but instead he finds corruption and murder going all the way to the top of Memphis politics. A Jack Logan client investigation takes him back to Humboldt looking into automobile fraud, which lands him smack in the middle of a murder. Not just any murder, but the murder of a local beauty queen – one who seemed to have too many enemies for a girl her age.
Beauty – real beauty is both a curious and interesting thing. There are varying degrees of beauty – depending upon the beholder. But what is beautiful to one is, more than likely, beautiful to all.
A beautiful woman will always retain her beauty. Regardless of age, wrinkles, even weight loss or gain – you can still see their magic and that thing we define as beauty. It’s unexplainable, but the things that made them beautiful still remain.
Age can alter how our eyes define this beauty, but it does not remove that underlying image which made them what they had always been – beautiful.
Only death has the ability to change this image and rob the beauty that was once so easily recognizable. In normal death – many remain as beautiful as they did in life - but in violent death, the beauty dissolves and a horrific site is inserted in the place of those things we knew and understood to be beautiful.
She had been in the water for more than 72 hours. Rigor mortis had come and gone and her body had begun to bloat – like a dead floating fish. Little water animals had already started to nibble at the exposed skin, leaving shreds of skin dangling for other predators to bite.
The body was never intended to be found, as is usually the case. This would have probably been accomplished except for an ambitious fisherman. Ike Murray knew the exact spot for he and his son, Rusty, to find fish in Humboldt Lake. A few yards back up in an unnoticed feeder creek is where Ike and Rusty had been catching their large mouth bass. It was here they found something tossed away like trash – without remorse and without intent of anyone ever seeing the beauty in this woman again.
My story begins many days before Ike and Rusty’s fishing trip and many days before the events that led to their tragic discovery.
My office address is officially listed as 149 Union Avenue – L6. Which means I occupy office 6 - located just off the lobby of The Peabody Hotel – Memphis, Tennessee. I actually would consider my address to be 3rd avenue – not Union, but the address has its perks.
The location itself is also handy. All my phone calls come through the hotel operator, which is also my answering service. I eat lunch and breakfast in the employee dining room at a great price. I have a beautiful lobby to greet potential clients - and please don’t forget the duck show, it happens twice a day. Aside from the perverts who hang out in the lobby restrooms, I can’t find a lot of fault with my office arrangements.
Besides, this is 1962 and people are accustomed to the modern ways of doing business. Appearance is everything, or at least a close second to whatever is first. The new real estate buzz is ‘location, location, location’ – I think I have one of the best.
The hotel directory and telephone yellow pages show L6 occupied by ‘The Drake Detective Agency’. That can be confusing, because the name on my office door reads:
Carson Reno – Private and Confidential Investigations
I am Carson Reno and always have been. There has never been a Drake working from this office, or any other in Memphis, that I am aware of. However, when I opened the agency I just could not find any rhyme or rhythm in ‘The Reno Detective Agency’. Besides, everybody who has watched Perry Mason knows Paul Drake and who knows – people may think this is a branch office or something. A little free publicity and promotion never hurt any business, just as long as they call or show-up with money.
A large number of my clients consist of damaged spouses looking for dirt and evidence on the unfaithful partner. It is possible that infidelity has made me what I am today – not a rich man but I can pay my bills. Occasionally, I get some insurance investigation work – searching for someone who has successfully snookered the insurance company for their own goodwill, or some poor smuck who filed false claims and skipped. But mostly I deal with the underbelly of our society – where you find some very bad people and never make friends with anyone.
When I’m not specifically working on a case, I try to spend as much time as possible in or near the office. Another advantage of the Peabody is having access to restaurants, bars, shops and the downtown activity – so staying close is never a problem.
Afternoons and early evenings will usually find me at the Starlight Lounge – just off Winchester. Not only is it a good place to ‘hang-out’, it is a great place to look for clients or – in fact – look for those my clients have hired me to find! The Starlight has live entertainment starting at Noon daily – yes, I said Noon. Everyday it is loaded with housewives who use the early part of the afternoon and evening to visit The Starlight for some drink and dance before the husband comes home from work. They cook dinner early, put it in the oven and dance on over the Starlight for an afternoon of wine and martinis. I have a friend who calls the place "Club Menopause” – I think that is an appropriate name.
Of course with the ladies come the men – generally just in search of some companionship, but sometimes in search for much more. Regardless, these are my clients, or potential clients, and I see no harm in getting to know as many of them as possible.
Rita is the head hostess at the Starlight and works some unbelievable hours. In fact, I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t the first to greet me – regardless of the time. She was once crowned Miss Memphis and, as I understand, had a brief acting career. This lady hasn’t lost a thing with age – she still has those terrific looks and manner that won her so many awards and titles. No question, she is one knockout and classy lady who knows her stuff and knows her customers. Rita always makes sure I get an opportunity to ‘meet and greet’ those who are in ‘distress’ and might need my services. She’s so good at it that I should put her on the payroll – assuming I had a payroll! However, I do make sure she gets tipped properly – whenever I get the opportunity.
My other hangout is home – or close to it. Home is a 12th floor one bedroom apartment at the 750 Adams complex on Manassas. A great place to call home - they have a small grocery/deli on the ground floor and a little bar in the basement called ‘The Down Under’. Regardless of your condition, it is always just a short elevator ride home – and sometimes that makes good sense. Every weekend they offer live entertainment to a usually packed house. Being small, space is usually limited - but my friend ‘Andy’, the bartender, can always seem to find me room.