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Baby Boy Blue [MultiFormat]
eBook by Marilyn Mattie Brahen

eBook Category: Mystery/Crime/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Description: In 1944 the boy Walter Buehl encounters a grisly scene: his mother lies stabbed to death on the kitchen floor, with his teenaged brother Tony crouching beside her, bloody knife in hand. Forty-one years later Tony escapes from the state psychiatric hospital where he's been held in the interim, and Walter, now a prominent businessman, presses the Philadelphia Police Department for action. But Lt. Asher Lowenstein isn't convinced of Tony's guilt, and he asks his friend, psychic Tam Westington, to help. As the police conduct a manhunt for the Baby Boy Blue killer, a long-buried truth may surface--if Philly's finest can play their investigative cards right! First-rate police procedural action!

eBook Publisher: Wildside Press, Published: USA, 2010
Fictionwise Release Date: December 2010


Sunday, June 30, 198

It was one of those dreams that seem so real. Tam was sitting at an outside table on some restaurant deck that overlooked a waterway. She held a scotch and soda in her hand, her son, David, drank an orange juice. Then David said he was going exploring in that underwater voice which dreams permit. He had gone off, climbing backwards down through some opening that led to an intermediate deck.

Then Asher Lowenstein appeared, leaning over the cafe table, the breeze ruffling his blonde hair. Tam wondered why he was there and not busy working some case for the Philadelphia Police Department.

"Don't worry," Ash told her. "I'm here and it's all right."

She nodded, thinking of a dozen reasons for his concern and comfort.

Then a shot rang out and she moved ethereally to see its source.

And it wasn't all right because David was dead, his stomach red with gunshot.

When she awoke, a sickly sensation engulfed her. She'd been psychic since the age of seventeen and for the past six months or so had been working at Asher's insistence with him and the police department. She'd recently located a young murder victim for them, more surprised than Ash that she'd accomplished anything at all. She felt offish at best going public with her talents, and picking up on a death on her first case had been traumatic.

The dream lurched her stomach--it had seemed too real. Like an aura of things to come, of prophecy. A bad prophecy.

She turned on the hallway light and peered into David's bedroom. He slept peacefully, his strong teenage body at repose. She switched off the light and climbed back into bed, troubled.

Asher would tell her it was psychological, connected with the murder case she'd helped to solve.

But until this dream faded, faded from memory, Tam would be haunted.

As she fell asleep, she thought again of telling Ash she wanted out. At least once a week she braced herself to admit she wasn't comfortable working with the Philadelphia Detective Bureau. And each time she let it go.

She couldn't say no to those who really needed her special brand of help.

SUMMER, 1944

The unaccustomed quiet of the house greeted him first. Then a grating clicking sound.

He moved cautiously, uneasy in the quiet, toward the phonograph where the needle skipped and skipped at the end of the 78 r.p.m. record. He lifted the needle and turned the machine off. He put Ole Blue Eyes back in its paper sleeve in the album cover.

He'd just come back from the Bijou, watching James Cagney and Pat O'Brien in The Fighting 69th and wishing he was old enough to enlist. He wasn't even nine yet. By the time he grew up, the war would be over.

It was too quiet. It wasn't like her to leave her treasured record player on, wasting electricity. And even when she wasn't talking, she radiated sound, just like that tower in the beginning of the newsreel before the movie started. Dishes got scraped, house slippers shuffled, the scrub of floors or squeak of woodwork being washed, even the rustling pages of The Ladies Home Journal, filled the house.

Perhaps she was resting upstairs. The day was warm, too hot for heavy housework. He headed through the dining room to the kitchen, the icebox and cool ice water beckoning, hand on the swinging door between the rooms. No one could cook like her; he wondered what she'd make for dinner.

His hand froze. Sobs, muffled sobs, choking, snorting, out-of-control sobs sounded from the kitchen. His fingers stuck to the wood, then slowly, feeling like a robot in those pulp science fiction mags his mother chided him for reading, he pushed the door wide open.

His mother lay on the floor, her mouth contorted, a large spray of blood wreathing her stomach. Her pretty white apron with the ruffles, red. Her freshly-scoured floor tiles, dotted with small puddles of red. His older brother, Tony, knelt weakly beside their mother, his trouser knees and legs saturated and red. A knife, clasped in Tony's hands, pointed upright, held as if in prayer too late for granting. The knife, red.

He watched the horror and fear on Tony's face, then felt his own stomach lurching at the scene before him. His rage grew.

"I didn't mean to, Walt," Tony pleaded.

He stood, studying Tony, his body weighted down like stone, hating his older brother.

Tony. Always trouble, always cantankerous, always fighting. Always no good. Mom always said so. He'd been no good ever since Dad got killed in the war.

Walt heard himself shouting, then screaming. He felt as if he were the one aiming the furious diatribe at his brother and yet outside himself, watching it all. Tony Buehl shrank back against the kitchen wall as if Walt's blistering words were lethal, scorching weapons maiming him painfully.

The next-door neighbor, hearing the chaos, came, saw, and ran for the police. The responding officers found them, the tableau unchanged, Tony, still cowering, Walter's shrill voice still resounding through the house.

Over and over, Walt shouted, his throat raw and hurting but his words spewing from a fury that couldn't be stemmed. "You're no good! You're a no good kid! You're a bad kid, a rotten kid, and you oughta be dead!"

Tony Buehl sank into the protective netherworld of insanity. He saw no more and heard no more that day. They led Tony to the squad car first, then gently began to steer Walter outside, too. He needed no prompting, following the retreating back of his older brother, making sure his words aimed straight and true, for Tony's heart.

Over and over again. They tried to calm him, but he screamed and shrieked out great scathing missives of hate, out of control.

"You oughta be dead! You oughta be dead! YOU OUGHTA BE DEAD!"

* * * *

Chapter 1

Tuesday, July 2, 1985

The delivery truck Tony Buehl had hidden himself in braked to a stop. Tony tensed his muscles to silence as the back door slid open. He could just about see the driver's shape flitting about the racks. He watched him consult his delivery roster and pull packages off the racks. Tony held his breath. The driver hopped down and disappeared into the grocery.

Tony sprang into action. He emerged from his camouflaged position, scattering fresh-baked loaves of bread off the rack in front of him and onto the truck floor. Grabbing donuts and cookies from another rack, he fled the truck.

He found himself on Bustleton Avenue, unfamiliar territory, and ran to the corner. Turning right on Tyson, Tony ran, his excitement surging, not stopping till he reached Roosevelt Boulevard.

He'd done it! He'd done it! He'd escaped from the hospital just like on TV. He hid in the truck and he didn't even have to sock out the driver like they did in that show. He'd thought of sneaking off the grounds at night, but was afraid he'd meet one of his guard friends. They'd make him feel foolish and make him go back to bed. Besides, the dark scared him. This was easier and not as scary. And fun! Tony liked this game and hoped Dr. Robbins wouldn't be too angry for him leaving like that. He'd come back when he got tired of playing.

He stood near the traffic light and put out his thumb at the intersection to the drivers on the boulevard, just like on TV. One wave of cars passed, uncaring, but with the second wave, a horn honked from the blue station wagon three cars back, and a disheveled head of hair stuck itself out of the opened passenger side window.

"Hey, my man, where you goin' with all that nutrition?"

Tony didn't understand about the nutrition but walked over to the car, wide-eyed, "I need a ride."

"Where you goin'?"

The man's beard and mustache parted to reveal a fleshy pink smile and fairly even teeth. With the mass of hair framing the rest of his face and the eyes twinkling under bushy brown brows, he looked like a young Santa Claus, and Tony felt comfortable telling the truth. "I'm running away from home.

"Far out!" the man said, and swung the door open. "Bein' I've got a massive hunger and you need some wheels, how bout you slide in here and we do some tradin'. Specially bein' the light's changin'." He pointed at the traffic light which shifted from red to green. Tony slid into the front seat and slammed the door. They took off down the boulevard.

Tony offered the cookies to the man, now wedged between a skinny long-haired blonde at the wheel and him.

"Far out, man! But I'd rather have the donuts." Tony obliged him and he gingerly opened the package. "This here's Claire," he indicated the lanky blonde, "and that's Murphy and Scrugs and Annie Belle in the backseat." Murphy looked like the oldest, wiry, tall and bald. Scrugs was small, Tony's size, with straight brown hair that seemed plastered to his head until it hung motionless at the top of his shoulders. Annie Belle was tiny and pretty with short brown hair that tapered around her ears, forehead and neck, and Tony blushed at her. She smiled back. He couldn't see much of Claire--the guy who looked like Santa Claus was, in fact, as big as Santa Claus. The donut box sat on his large belly, taking the bumps with it as the station wagon now avoided the potholes on its way out to the Schuylkill Expressway.

"My name's Tony," he offered, feeling they were waiting to know.

"Far out!" the jovial, hairy fat guy answered, and Tony wondered if this guy knew John Denver. He had seen John Denver on TV and John Denver liked to say that. Tony went around a whole week saying, "Far out!" until Dr. Robbins told him to say something different. Dr. Robbins had laughed and now this guy laughed, too. "Far out, Tony! I was sittin' here, thinkin', boy, I could do with some donuts, and there you were. Talk about creating out of the cosmic energy!" He held out his free hand. "They call me Santa Ana."

Tony shook his hand, a bubble of joy rising in his throat. He knew he was close. He couldn't resist asking the next question.

"Santa Ana?"

Santa Ana looked up from his munchies.

"Do you know Santa Claus?"

Everyone in the car roared. Tony hesitated, then joined in, feeling good.

"I don't know, man," Santa Ana said, wiping mirthful tears from his eyes. "Sometimes I think I'm one of his elves!"

"You look like him," Tony said.

"You're funny," Annie Belle offered from the backseat.

"Thank you," Tony said and blushed.

"Tell you what, Tony," Santa Ana said, "why confuse things? Call me Santa. That's what they do."

"Sure we do," Scrugs added. "But this guy's gonna expect presents under the tree at Christmas!"

Another round of laughter shot through the car and Tony joined in.

"Hey, Santa," Murphy finally spoke, "this guy's got no place to go and he's fun. Maybe he'd like to crash with us for a while."

Claire, at the wheel, spoke. "Tony seems nice but I'd like to know what he's runnin' from." She leaned forward as she spoke, and Tony saw a thin but pretty face and slightly wavy hair that curled at the base of her neck.

Santa turned to him. "Well, Tony?"

Tony shrugged, uncomfortable. "They locked me up. My brother, Walt, he won't let me out. Dr. Robbins said I could get out but Walt won't let me. So I ran away from home." He looked at them imploringly. "I won't be any trouble. I just wanted to get away a little. I won't be no trouble, please." When they didn't answer, he added, "I been locked up a long time and Walt won't let me out."

The whole carload seemed to galvanize into action.

"You can stay with us, man," Santa muttered. "We've got room at our house in Germantown. Far out, man! Someone lockin' up a nice little guy like you!"

"We'll protect you," Claire said firmly. "Don't worry about that brother of yours."

"It's fine with us," Murphy said from the back and Scrugs and Annie Belle nodded.

"Don't you worry, Tony." Annie Belle laid a tender hand on his shoulder. "We're your family now."

Tony turned to her, a shy, grateful smile on his face. "Thank you very much." She smiled back and his own smile broke even wider.

"Far out!" he laughed and everyone hugged their sides and bellies, even Claire at the wheel.

All this, Tony thought, and Christmas, too.

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