Every goodhearted detective needs a loathsome nemesis.
Mike Faricy is a prolific author and has several mystery series on the go. Today we focus on his Dev Haskell series with book #27, Alley Katz. Readers describe Dev as a ‘likeable rogue’ and I think that’s the perfect description. In our interview I mention to Mike that Dev made me think of a cross between Lawrence Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. And I love how deliciously nasty Dev’s nemesis/employer, Tubby Gustafson, is.
If you like what you hear when Mike reads to us, there are two Dev Haskell novellas available at Mike’s website for free, Twinkletoes and Dollhouse. You can sign up to receive those books here.
In case you missed it, I shared the first part of one of my monthly short stories yesterday here on the blog. You can read that here.
Today’s show is supported by my patrons at Patreon. Thank you! When you become a patron for as little as $1 a month you receive a short mystery story each and every month. And the rewards for those who love mystery stories go up from there! Learn more and become a part of my community of readers at www.Patreon.com/alexandraamor
This week’s mystery author
Mike Faricy was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He developed his love for books from his parents reading to him at an early age. He currently has written seventy-five books in four crime fiction series; The Dev Haskell series, the Corridor Man series, the Hotshot series, and the Jack Dillon Dublin Tales series.
Mike is the winner of the 2019 Crime Master’s of America Poison Cup Award and the winner of the 2020 Crime Master’s of America Poison Cup Award for the Best Selling series.
Mike lives in St. Paul, Minnesota and Dublin, Ireland, which makes me the most boring guy in two towns.
To learn more about Mike and all his books visit MikeFaricyBooks.com
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Excerpt from Alley Katz
I hurried out of Annette’s house and sped toward Tubby’s palace. Every time the wheels turned, I seemed to dread the meeting just a little bit more. The drive went all too quickly, and before I knew it, I was climbing out of my car and pressing the button on the intercom at Tubby’s front gate.
“Well, Haskell, back for more. Good luck with that,” the voice answered, laughed, and the gate suddenly began to open.
Apparently, everyone had been alerted to my pending arrival. They’d probably set up some way to tape my beheading and use it as a warning to anyone who even thought of crossing Tubby in the future.
I drove up the circular drive to the parking area. The usual two thugs were leaning against the house. By the time I parked, placed my pistol in the glove compartment, and climbed out, one of them was standing at the rear of my car.
“You must be a glutton for punishment, Haskell. Suit yourself. Assume the position,” he said.
I leaned over the trunk, and he patted me down, twice. “Okay, you’re good to go,” he said.
I walked over to the front door, where his partner patted me down. “Lucky you. You get to go inside,” he said and laughed.
He opened the door, and I stepped inside. Squiggy was reading a comic book. Probably the same one he was reading the last time I was here. He looked at me, shook his head, and pushed his bifocals on the bridge of his nose.“You know, Haskell, I’d normally tell you this is your lucky day, but you know better than that. Follow me,” he said and set off across the entryway. He was knocking on Tubby’s office door a moment later.
“It’s about damn time. Send him in here,” Tubby growled as Squiggy opened the door.
“Good luck,” Squiggy half-whispered as I hurried past and headed into Tubby’s office.
I’d seen Tubby in this situation before, his massage hour. He was stretched out on a table that must have had steel I-beams for legs to support his massive weight. Dimpled flab from his stomach and sides hung over the edge of the table. Thankfully, a white towel covered his large, flabby rear end. His eyes were closed, and his pitted nose, the size of a baked potato, was red. No doubt due to the exertion caused by the two Asian women massaging his hairy shoulders. Both women were clad in black lace thongs and, at no surprise, latex gloves.
“Damn it, Haskell, you’ve set my schedule back by a full hour,” Tubby said, keeping his eyes closed. “So where in the hell is he?”
“You mean Cummings, sir?”
The redness from his nose suddenly seemed to infect his cheeks. Still keeping his eyes closed, he growled, “Just why in the hell would you be here if it wasn’t to give me an update on Eli Cummings? You seem to have plenty of time to run around town at all hours of the night, no doubt enjoying yourself. So, where is he?”
“I don’t know, sir. I’m continuing to search, but if you’ll recall, after the break-in, I was forced to start back at square one.”
“Oh, yes, now I remember.” He looked up at one of the women. “Bao, if you would be so kind as to provide Mr. Haskell with a taste of what he’s been missing.”
The smaller of the two women bowed toward Tubby lying on the table. Her partner said something in a language I couldn’t understand, and they both giggled as she approached. She was a demure woman, well-endowed, with dark brown eyes. I couldn’t help but stare. She raised her eyebrows and smiled as she stepped in front of me and bowed politely. She reached out and gave my shoulders a little rub just before she spun around, raising one of her gorgeous legs, and connected her heel with my nose.
I sailed over an end table next to the leather couch and landed on the floor. Pretty little Bao strutted over. As I rose on all fours, she kicked me in the ribs, flipping me over onto my back.
“That will be enough for now, Bao,” Tubby said, raising his shoulders and fat head. “Let me warn you, Haskell. Don’t you dare bleed on my rug. Now get the hell out of my sight and do not come back until you have that worthless Cummings, in your possession. Do I make myself clear?”
I attempted to focus on Tubby, but with the room spinning, it was difficult.
“Well, do I?” Tubby shouted.
“Yeah, I mean, yes, sir,” I said and began to crawl toward what I thought was the door.
“Haskell, once again, you’re headed in the wrong direction. Bao, lead him the hell out of here,” Tubby said. I was still attempting to focus when someone, I presumed Bao, grabbed me by the hair and led me toward the door. I attempted to crawl fast enough to keep up. She suddenly jumped on my back, laughed and slapped the back of my head as I crawled forward. She hopped off, opened the door, and then kicked me hard in the rear, knocking me into the hallway. The door slammed closed behind me.
“All finished?” Squiggy asked a minute or two later. I was sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall with my head tilted back. He didn’t comment on my bloody face. “Here, let me help you up,” he said and extended a hand. He led me down the hall, across the entryway, and out the front door.
“How did it go,” one of the thugs leaning against the front of the house asked, and both of them laughed.
I ignored them and slowly headed to my car. I pulled out of the parking place and cautiously drove toward the front gate. As I approached, the gate slowly opened. I pulled onto the street and drove home. I parked in my driveway and, for the first time, looked at myself in the rearview mirror.
My face was covered with blood, some of it still dripping off my chin. My nose was swollen to almost twice its normal size and now seemed to be situated at about a forty-five-degree angle. I gently placed both hands on either side, added pressure, then forced the bridge more or less back into position, letting out a scream as I did. The flow of blood picked up its pace. I tilted my head back and sat there behind the wheel for a good half-hour, breathing through my mouth.
When I phoned Annette ninety minutes later, the first thing she said is, “Dev, you sound like you have a cold. How did your meeting go?”
“Not to worry. I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know.”
“Meaning Tubby is an awful person, and I shouldn’t have wasted my time going there.”
“I’d just as soon not go into it right now. I’m going to check out the high school, and hopefully, I’ll see Taylor there.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Oh, thanks for offering, Annette, but I’m pretty much out of options.”
“Oh, Dev, I wish there was something I could do for you.”
“Yeah, so do I. Look, if anything changes, you’ll be the first person I call. Thanks for all your help and support thus far, and I mean it. You’ve been great.”
“Well, thanks, that’s kind of you to say. You’re sure I can’t—”
“Yeah, thanks, hopefully, Taylor is at the high school. I’d better get going. I’ll chat with you later.” I went inside, changed shirts, and carefully patted a wet washcloth on my face.
My head continued to throb as I drove over to the high school. I parked in the parking lot and pulled out a pair of binoculars from the glove compartment. At 2:46, the doors to the school flew open, and a mob of teenagers blasted out of the building, anxious to flee the scene. I searched the crowd through my binoculars for the next ten minutes but never saw anyone who resembled Taylor.
I attracted more than a little attention looking through binoculars with two bits of toilet paper stuffed up my nose. I focused my swollen, black eyes on the second surge of kids coming out of the building when there was a knock on the driver’s window. I turned and looked at a police officer then quickly glanced the other way and saw his partner standing at a discrete distance in a position that suggested he was ready to draw and fire.
I lowered my window and said, “Can I help you, officer?”
“Yes, sir. You can keep your hands where I can see them and step out of your car.”
“I was just looking for a friend and—”
“Please, sir, I’d like to do this the easy way. It would appear you might like to avoid another contentious discussion,” he said and made a general nod toward my nose and eyes.
“Yeah, sure, I’m getting out. I’m going to place these binoculars on the passenger seat if that’s all right.”
“Yeah, but nice and slow, okay.”
I followed his instructions and slowly set the binoculars on the passenger seat.
“Thank you,” he said, opening my door. “Now, if you’ll step out and assume the position.”
How many people got told that twice in the same day? I stepped out of my car, placed my hands on the hood, and spread my legs. When he was finished patting me down, he cuffed my hands behind my back, pulled the wallet from my pocket, and led me into the back seat of his patrol car. There were about two hundred kids standing around. A couple of them were chanting, “Lock him up!” to the collective laughs of the crowd. If Taylor had been anywhere in the vicinity, I was certain that, by now, he had headed in the opposite direction.
Both officers settled into the front seat, and the one who cuffed me said, “Care to explain what, exactly, you were doing here?”
“I’m looking for a kid I found living rough. He’d been staying at my place for a couple of nights, and then he just up and disappeared yesterday. I wanted to find him and tell him he could continue to stay at my place.”
“And he goes to school here?”
“Yeah, in fact, this is where I met him. I’m a volunteer with the detention group that meets here on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. He was going to try to spend the night in the school, and I’ve got a guest room, so I offered it to him.”
“What’s the boy’s name?”
“Does he happen to have a last name?”
“He does, but I never asked what it was. I just wanted him to feel safe in my house.”
“And why wouldn’t he feel safe?”
“Oh wait, I know where you’re going with this. No, that’s not the deal. I’m not into young boys or young girls for that matter.”
“You had a gun in your glove compartment,” the cop who’d been standing off to the side said.
“Yeah, I’m a private investigator, licensed to carry.”
“I didn’t find your license in the glove compartment, and it’s not in your wallet, Mr. Haskell.”
“Yeah, it’s, umm, probably at my office. I’ve been meaning to put it in my glove compartment. I guess it slipped my mind.”
A car full of boys drove past. All of them were laughing and giving me the finger.
“Looks like you had a bit of a disagreement recently. I’m guessing maybe this morning. You want to tell us about it?” the guy in the passenger seat asked.
“Nothing to tell, really. I just slipped on the stairs. Looks a lot worse than it is.”
They both nodded in a way that suggested my excuse confirmed any suspicions they may have had.
“You could call my pal with the department, Lieutenant Aaron LaZelle. He’ll vouch for me. I just had dinner with him last week. I know most of the people in his division. I’ve worked with a number of them.”
“Yeah, he’s a little busy right now. There’s been a shooting. We’re going to take you downtown, Mr. Haskell and get all this sorted out.”
“Oh, come on, fellas. You don’t have to do that. I’m sure if you gave Aaron a call, he’d vouch for me. It would only take a minute and save you a lot of trouble. If he’s busy, just about any of the detectives would tell you I’m good.”
The guy behind the wheel looked at his partner and nodded. The partner pulled out a cellphone and pushed a button. “Yeah, sorry to bother you,” he said. “We’ve got someone out here at Central High School. His name is Devlin Haskell. He’s a P.I. No. We got a call from someone at the school. He was parked in the parking lot checking out kids with a pair of binoculars. Told us you could vouch for him. Mmm-hmm. Yeah, we can do that. Okay, thanks, appreciate the help.”
“Did he vouch for me?”
“Actually no, that was Detective Sergeant Norris Manning. He suggested it would be a good idea if we brought you in.”
“Manning? That guy hates me. Can’t you talk to Lieutenant LaZelle? I’m telling you, we’re good friends. We’ve known one another for years. We used to play hockey together.”
“We already told you, LaZelle is busy. I’m sure once he’s back at the station, he can put in a good word, and you’ll be free to go. Until then, Mr. Hassle, you’ll be a guest of the city.”
The cop behind the wheel turned on the ignition, and we headed out of the parking lot.
I waited another three hours in the holding cell. Some guy was passed out on the concrete floor, snoring. Two individuals kept arguing back and forth about which one was supposed to ‘deal with’ whoever was in a back room. Another guy kept giving me the eye. I think he was looking for something I had that he might want. Apparently, he decided I really didn’t have anything worth taking. Finally, a cop walked over to the cell and called my name, “Hassle, Devlin Hassle?”
Why bother to make a correction? I stood and walked over to him. “Yeah, that’s me,” I said through the bars.
“Okay, the L.T. wants you up in homicide. If you’ll turn around, I’ll cuff you.”
“What? Cuff me? You gotta be kidding.”
“Well, while you take your time to determine whether or not I’m kidding, I can attend to the thousand other things I have to do and come back tomorrow morning. So, if you want to go up there, you better turn around. Either that or you can choose to spend time with your new friends down here. Don’t matter much to me. It’s your choice.”
I immediately saw his point and turned around. He cuffed my hands behind my back and called to another guard who came over and unlocked the door. As I stepped out, the guy who’d been giving me the eye stood and hurried over.
“Hey, I want whatever this dumb ass is getting.”
“Then you’ll have to wait your turn,” the guard said and led me away.
We took the elevator up three or four floors and then walked down a hall. The guard wore an ID around his neck. He held the ID in front of the keypad, and the door lock buzzed. He pushed the door open, grabbed my arm, and led me into the homicide section.
I’d worked in one capacity or another with just about everyone in the room. As we headed toward Aaron’s office, I heard a couple of laughs. Someone shouted, “It’s about time,” and a couple guys started clapping.
We stopped at Aaron’s door, and the guard knocked on the doorframe. Aaron was on a phone call. He waved his hand, indicating we should enter, and then moved his hand back and forth, signaling to take the handcuffs off. Once the guard did that, Aaron placed his hand over the receiver and said, “Thanks, Tony.”
“You bet, L.T., good luck here,” Tony said and left.