Authors: Joanne Pence
FOUR O’CLOCK SIZZLE
An Inspector Rebecca Mayfield Mystery
Quail Hill Publishing
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, public or private institutions, corporations, towns, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems without permission in writing from the author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review. This book may not be resold or uploaded for distribution to others.
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First Quail Hill Publishing Paperback Printing: June 2016
First Quail Hill Publishing E-book: June 2016
Copyright © 2016 Joanne Pence
All rights reserved.
San Francisco Fire Department Captain Warren Eisen, head of the Bureau of Fire Investigations, believed arson was the cause of the early morning blaze that gutted the storeroom of Easy Street Clothiers. It was an upscale store that catered to hip young men as well as older men hoping to appear “cool,” and willing to pay a fortune for jeans, shirts, and jackets that looked well-worn when purchased. No three-piece suit, necktie or, God forbid, a bow tie would ever darken the racks of Easy Street.
If the cause of the fire was arson, the death of the man found in the store would very likely be ruled a homicide.
What Homicide Inspector Rebecca Mayfield found strange, however, was that when she and her partner Bill Sutter arrived at the scene, Easy Street Clothier’s owner, Diego Bosque, had already gone. He put his store manager, Dan Peters, in charge. The detectives tried to locate Bosque but he wasn’t answering his phone, or heeding their voice message requests to return to the building.
No one, as yet, knew the identity of the victim. He was found curled on the floor of the storeroom as if asleep, an empty bottle of what is often called “Two Buck Chuck” next to him. He was white, probably in his forties or fifties, thin and malnourished. Judging from his clothes—definitely not Easy Street quality—he appeared to be a derelict who had somehow gotten inside with his wine, and died of smoke inhalation while he slept. Very likely, no one knew he was there when the fire alarms went off.
After spending the morning talking to neighboring store owners and others who worked nearby, and obtaining information on the employees, Rebecca returned to the Hall of Justice to run some employee names through the system to see if any red flags turned up. At the same time, Bill Sutter was doing what he could to run down the name of the victim.
The Homicide Bureau was located on the Hall’s fourth floor. It consisted of a large, open main room crammed with inspectors’ desks and filing cabinets, books, and computers. Off it were interview rooms, and nearby was the office of the chief, Lt. James Philip Eastwood.
As Rebecca entered the bureau, she was surprised to see three of homicide’s detectives, Bo Benson, Paavo Smith, and Luis Calderon, huddled around the secretary’s desk. Whatever Elizabeth Havlin was showing them was causing them to laugh like a group of teenage boys pouring over their first copy of
. Rebecca headed their way.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Oh!” Elizabeth cried. She shut the magazine they were looking at and flipped it over, face-down. Rebecca caught a glimpse of the cover:
San Francisco Beat.
It was a weekly pulp rag filled with mostly scurrilous stories about the Bay Area’s rich and famous. Elizabeth’s whole face turned bright red. “Look!” she pointed to a vase of roses on a side table. “They just came for you. Must be a secret admirer.”
“For me?” Rebecca was surprised. The roses were beautiful.
The three detectives all but ran back to their desks. Rebecca glanced at them as she pulled out the note.
May these help brighten your Monday. —Richie.
She smiled. How sweet! She couldn’t even remember the last time anyone sent her flowers. And never at work. She wondered if speculation about her flowers was what the “boys” as she called the male detectives she worked with—and sometimes they did act like boys—had been chuckling over.
“Or, maybe they came from a not-so-secret admirer?” Elizabeth said with a knowing smile.
Rebecca’s lips pursed. She didn’t like the thought of anyone at work knowing about her private life. Especially not when it involved Richie Amalfi. It was bad enough that he was the cousin of the wife of her co-worker, Homicide Inspector Paavo Smith, but she always felt, sadly, that despite liking him a whole lot, that theirs was no “forever” relationship. They’d have a pleasant fling, but eventually each would go their separate ways. So she didn’t want people she worked with to think more was going on here than actually was. “It’s no one you know,” she said curtly. Sometimes a white lie was better than truthfully saying, “It’s none of your business.”
“I see.” Elizabeth gave a forced laugh.
Rebecca wondered why Elizabeth was acting so strangely, noticing she now had her arms crossed atop the magazine as if desperately trying to hide it.
“May I see?” Rebecca asked, holding out her hand. While most people would think they needed to “respect” Elizabeth’s desire to hide the magazine, as a cop, Rebecca had learned to ask for and get what she wanted, when she wanted it.
“Oh, you don’t want to look at it,” Elizabeth said, nervously shaking her head. “It’s a sleazy tabloid, that’s all. Nothing but lies—gossip and lies. You can’t believe a thing you read in it.”
“I know that,” Rebecca said. “It’s why I never read it. But I’d like to be in on the joke.”
Elizabeth drew in a deep breath. “Before I give it to you, I’ve got to explain. I had no idea what was in it. I only bought it for fun.”
“Okay,” Rebecca murmured, more puzzled than ever. And then like a beat cop who was tired of pussy-footing around, she said, “Hand it over.”
Elizabeth handed over the magazine.
The cover screamed,
“San Francisco’s Bad Boys: The City’s 6 Most Enticing Bachelors.”
On that cover was a montage of six good-looking men. And among them, smiling at the camera in a full, toothy grin, was the guy who had just gifted her with beautiful roses, Richie Amalfi himself. “Oh, shit!”
Rebecca usually made it a point not to swear because she’d grown so sick of the constant barrage of foul language she heard on the streets as a cop. But this time, she couldn’t help herself.
“Don’t …” Elizabeth cleared her throat. “Don’t bother to read it. It’s garbage.”
Rebecca flipped to the article. She actually was tempted to give the rag back to Elizabeth when her eye caught the name of another “bad boy.” Diego Bosque, the hard-to-reach owner of Easy Street Clothiers.
Without saying a word, she took her roses and the magazine and headed to her desk. Watching her, the other detectives, Bo, Paavo, and Luis, looked ready to crawl under their own desks. One-by-one, each skedaddled out of the bureau. She was getting a very bad feeling about this. She sat down, stiffened her shoulders and began to read.
Our six bachelors aren’t the Bay Area’s richest men and not necessarily the most handsome. And yet, through force of personality combined with renown in their respective fields, everyone notices when one of these bad boys enters a room. And if you don’t believe us, just listen to what the women—and a few men—who best know our six ‘Enticing Bachelors’ have to say.
The article went through the bachelors one by one—a boutique hotel owner, a tour boat operator, a restaurant owner, a software developer, and the two names Rebecca knew: an upscale men’s clothier, and Richie. She scarcely glanced at the write-ups of the men she didn’t recognize, but stopped at the write-up for Diego Bosque. Rebecca congratulated herself for allowing professional interest to trump personal curiosity … for now.
It talked about his family moving to the U.S. from Argentina, and how he began his career by working in the men’s department at Macy’s in San Francisco. He quickly discovered an interest in fashion and materials. But then the article took a surprising swerve and implied that people on the wrong side of the law gave him the means to open a small downtown store that catered to young professionals, and that was why he now owned several satellite stores in the Cupertino-Silicon Valley area.
Bosque counted his fortune in seven figures. Also, he had been engaged several times, but never married. He even left one society debutante standing at the altar when he got cold feet—after her wealthy father had shelled out over a hundred grand on a big, fat white wedding with all the trimmings. Rebecca couldn’t help but wonder if that wasn’t motive for arson by the bride-to-be, her father, or both.
The rest of the write-up recounted, time after time, Bosque’s role as a heart-breaker. She quickly scanned that and then turned to the section about Richie.
The article introduced him as a former real estate mogul turned entrepreneur and the owner of the city’s hottest new nightclub, Big Caesar’s, located near Fisherman’s Wharf. Like Diego Bosque’s biography, strong hints were made that the money he used to buy his first building wasn’t clean. She actually knew where the money had come from, and she was stunned that the article didn’t mention it. Only recently had Richie told her about that side of his life. When a person had a problem, especially one with criminal or civil overtones, and needed it to “go away” or to be quietly handled, that person could go to Richie to have the situation “fixed.” People paid big bucks for such clandestine assistance.
Strange, she thought, that the writer had missed that, but she was relieved he had. She didn’t want the cops she worked with to know anything about Richie’s income as a “fixer.” He swore that everything he did was on the right side of the law, and although she believed him, she also saw first-hand that the line between right and wrong wavered quite a bit. And even if Richie wasn’t doing anything illegal, the people he dealt with rarely had such scruples.
The article did say it was amazing that Richie seemed to know “everybody who’s anybody” in the Bay Area. The writer also pointed out that he couldn’t find anyone who would say anything negative about Richie. The article implied it wasn’t because they genuinely liked him, but that something else was going on—something not quite “right.” And, yes, the word was used again with all it implied: right versus wrong.
She didn’t want to read anything more, but she couldn’t help herself because the write-up next went to Richie’s personal life.
Although no one spoke badly of him, the magazine didn’t hesitate to describe him as the worst sort of Lothario. Two pictures were included of him with two of his former “lady friends.” Both looked like models—tall, thin, and beautiful—one with long raven-colored hair, and the other with long, light brown hair streaked with blond highlights. Both, when interviewed, talked about him flooding them with flowers—Rebecca stopped reading, her eyes narrowing on the roses on the corner of her desk. He also gave them presents, wined and dined them lavishly, and was constantly attentive until they fell madly in love and believed he felt the same. Then he dumped them without so much as a good-bye, let alone any explanation. One of the women even shed tears as she relayed her story.
Rebecca’s eyebrows rose at that.
What a bunch of horse … pucky.
The article was ridiculous. She’d gotten to know Richie well, and this write-up was completely unfair about him. He could be maddening at times, but that was no reason for him to be pilloried this way. There was a period in his life where he’d been in quite a tailspin and acted accordingly, but the reason for it was understandable. If anything, he should be congratulated for the way he, with the help of his closest friends, Shay and Vito, managed to pull himself out of that period and to move on with his life. But the author of the article didn’t go into any of that. Instead, he just played up Richie’s less-than-stellar reputation.
Over the past few months, every detective she worked with, plus her boss, Lt. Eastwood, had warned her against getting involved with him. She had visions of their reaction to the article, believing it, and most likely concluding that she was nothing but a pathetic, unsophisticated chump, a farm girl from Idaho, naive enough to fall for a charming, big-city wheeler-dealer.
The unfairness of it all made her sick to her stomach.
Visions of her weekend with him struck. They’d spent most of it together—Saturday night, Sunday, Sunday night. And it had been nice. Quite nice. They had even made plans for next weekend, hoping for a fun time away from the city.
She rubbed her forehead. The best thing would be if no one at work found out how close she and Richie had become. It’d be one thing if she thought they would stay together, but to tell the truth, she didn’t know what to think about their future.
And now this. Doing a slow burn that was quickly growing into a major conflagration, she shut the magazine and turned it face down.
How could Richie not have told her about the article? He had to have known about it. Did he really think she wouldn’t find out?
San Francisco Beat
The National Inquirer
look like Pulitzer material, but people in the Bay Area read and talked about it. Its whole reason for being was to spread salacious lies that would get people to buy the magazine; they certainly didn’t buy it to increase human knowledge or understanding. It was like catnip to anyone who liked Bay Area gossip.
Good God! She could imagine people lumping her in with the jilted, weepy women in the story. She could see it causing people, including her colleagues, to question her judgment. And her, a homicide inspector …
Maybe she was just over-reacting. She opened to Richie’s part of the article and read it again. The more she read, the more furious she became. If only she had a match—
She looked up at the sound of Sutter’s voice. “I didn’t know you were such a fan,” he said. “I’ll be sure to get you a copy of
next time I see it. It’s actually a lot better, the stories much juicier. Did you read the one about Elvis Presley being an alien?”