The Wrong Side of Memphis [MultiFormat]
Click on image to enlarge.
eBook by Claire Applewhite
eBook Category: Mystery/Crime
eBook Description: --A Vietnam vet turned P.I. ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time--at the Jewel Arms apartments in St. Louis, as he matches wits with a ruthless killer. Elvin Suggs already knew how to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Decades earlier, spending time as a Green Beret during The Siege of Khe Sanh taught him about the wrong side of 1968. Now with his life in a shambles after his wife demands a divorce--brokenhearted and broke but determined to salvage his pride and his dreams--Elvin turns to the only person he can count on, Dimond Redding, his best friend's widow. A fellow 'Nam vet and new tenant at the Jewel Arms apartment building in St. Louis, Missouri, Dimond is ready to move out before Elvin even arrives when a random murder occurs right outside her front door. She can't break her lease, but with a ruthless killer on the loose and corpses suddenly turning up everywhere, she wonders if she'll be the next victim. Homicide Detective Rick Valentino doesn't seem to be getting anywhere fast on the case, so experienced Private Investigator Elvin lends a hand, working to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The odd assortment of tenants and strange goings-on at the Jewel Arms provide more questions than answers, including connections with Elvin's past. When another car with Tennessee plates shows up at the apartment building is it a coincidence, or is someone following him? As Elvin inches closer to the truth he has to remind himself that he knows all about the wrong places and times. Only this time he's got nothing to lose--he's on the wrong side of Memphis.
eBook Publisher: L&L Dreamspell/L&L Dreamspell, Published: Spring, Texas, 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: May 2009
* * * *
1 Reader Ratings:
"Claire Applewhite's debut mystery THE WRONG SIDE OF MEMPHIS is a polished story wrapped in layers of intrigue, sharpened by unexpected twists, and warmed by heartfelt emotions. A grisly murder in a South St. Louis apartment baffles police and residents alike, and sets in motion an intricate plot that careens to a satisfying ending you'll never see coming. The characters are compelling, with their human frailties and strengths expertly drawn. You'll be racing toward the end of this book but wanting it not to end just yet, so you can hang out with the characters a while longer. I'm ready for the next book so I can rejoin Dimond, Elvin, Vanna, and Cobra, who have each other's backs, even though one of them walks on four legs."--Shirley Kennett, author of the PJ Gray mysteries "This is an old-fashioned who-dunnit, and don't let the title fool you. It's set in St. Louis, a hard-scrabble apartment building where all the tenants have dreams and secrets, and some have motive and opportunity. It's a place I might not want to live, but I sure enjoyed my visit. If Sam Spade lived in St. Louis, he'd feel at home in the Jewel Arms, where all the tenants have secrets. When Di Redding moved in, she thought she was starting a new life. She didn't realize she'd have to call on her late husband's Vietnam buddy to help sort out the secrets and solve a series of murders."--Bill McClellan--St. Louis Post-Dispatch Claire Applewhite gives us non-stop suspense and vividly drawn characters. You'll love this novel set in St. Louis--Bobbi Smith
St. Louis, Missouri
The Jewel Arms Apartments
Saturday, 5:13 p.m.
"Val! It's Mattie, open up!"
Valerie paused by the front door. His sniffles and coughs made her shiver. That's what I get for being such a sucker. People always latching onto me. Leave. Please.
Until today, Mattie Torrez was her kind of guy. She liked the quiet ones, with her wine and roses on the side. She liked his smile and the way he lit her cigarette, things like that. But today, Mattie looked haggard and hard. After two months and some change, she still didn't know him. He stammered and weighed every word. Why, he dropped everything he touched, and the pacing, back and forth...
What was that racket?
Now, Valerie heard muffled voices, a ping, a pounding, and the shuffle of feet. Labored breaths echoed in the hall. She should open the door, but tonight, Mattie's problems would have to wait. She hated to rush. Tomorrow she would deal with Mattie Torrez.
If only his mother didn't live upstairs. For a brief moment, Valerie fantasized that Belle had wandered off and vanished, or even died. Before too long, she came to her senses. Inconvenient situations didn't just become convenient, and Belle wouldn't disappear to make her life easier. Right now, she'd better hustle or she would miss the only job she'd booked all week.
Tonight was Big Otto's Birthday Party. That meant Ladies' Night, and Payday for Valerie. In her wildest dream, Otto invited a guest who appreciated her kind of talent, like a Hollywood agent with a one-way ticket to Tinseltown. The dream owned her.
She hoped Otto's Fine Auto Parts wasn't as hard to find as its "skilled automotive staff," and their sketchy party instructions. About a month ago, Valerie's phone rang, and a raspy voice calling himself "Waldo B," rattled off the birthday requests. "As long as the money is green," Valerie said.
"Now, listen up," the dude said. He coughed into the phone, and sniffled while he mumbled. "Big Otto loves his Mercedes, and fudge cake with lots of fluffy white frosting. We think he would love a Blonde in a Mercedes with a fudge cake. Yous can sing, can't cha?" Without a warning, he hung up on her. The nerve of that nut!
She stomped off to her bedroom and yanked a dress from the crammed closet. Valerie didn't want to be late tonight. She loved a good dress, and she loved parties, especially ones with lots of men. The clutter smelled dusty. With watery, itchy eyes, she rummaged in the heap for her gold stilettos.
Valerie bustled about the cramped bathroom. Bottles of perfume and mysterious tonics crowded every space. The flimsy front door rattled. She thought she heard Mattie's muffled voice. For a brief moment, she even thought he sounded a little frightened. She dismissed the notion. His antics couldn't ruin her evening.
"Not now, Mattie, I'm getting dressed. Tomorrow ... I'll see you tomorrow. Now, go get something to eat--or drink."
She teased her platinum hair and lacquered the bouffant bubble with cheap aerosol spray. With a graceful hand, she guided the sheer stocking over her knee, where it ended mid-thigh in a thin edging of red lace. For just a moment, she admired her reflection in the chipped mirror. She loved the way her breasts spilled out of the white polyester halter dress. Beautiful, just beautiful. Sooo Marilyn.
"Valerie, baby, c'mon, open up! Now, c'mon!" The doorknob was clattering now, faintly at first, followed by a crescendo of knocks and rattles.
"I told you Mattie, I've got a party with The Big Otto! I'll see you tomorrow."
She outlined her full mouth with Red Devil lipstick, and glanced at the mirror. That's her, she whispered. That's Marilyn, all right.
She inched into her spiked heels and tiptoed onto the yellowed linoleum in the narrow hall. Someday, she'd get out of this dump. Marilyn wouldn't want to walk on yellow linoleum. Why should she?
Imaginary fans crammed the hushed living room. Valerie slunk to the tiny "stage" where she prepared to serenade her audience. Someday, I'll be a big star, just like Marilyn. "Diamonds are a girl's best friend," she crooned in her sweetest soprano.
Rattle and clatter and the wobbling knob shattered the spell.
"Damn it, Mattie!" Valerie's polished red fingers squeezed the knob and turned. She'd give him a tongue lashing this time, she'd had enough.
The pitted mahogany door banged back against the dull plaster. Mattie collapsed onto Valerie's slender frame and they toppled to the drab carpet.
"Val, help. Help me, Va-al. He-ll-p," Mattie sputtered and spit between labored gasps. His eyelids drooped, even as he struggled to focus his gaze. "I love ya, Va-al." His lips were limp and soft. His breaths grew shallow. A thin line of blood dripped from his neck.
Don't panic. You've been in tight spots. Every roll, you've beaten the odds. Her hands were wet with Mattie's blood. She couldn't breathe. Mattie's shirt was stained, just like his crimson tie, his slashed coat ... her scarlet-white dress, oh my ... Deep in her throat, a scream waited, and waited.
"Mattie, get up!" She shoved his thick legs away from the front door and gulped some rancid air. Mattie's frantic pleas repeated like a refrain. Valerie baby, c'mon open up, Valerie baby ... STOP! Mattie's wounded hands clutched at the "Marilyn" face; blood oozed from his neck. Her fingers grazed something cold, and recoiled in horror. The wooden handle of a knife protruded from the curve in his spine. Valerie's hand felt numb. "Why Mattie? Why?"
Mattie gasped. "Will you ... you ... will you ... Val, please..." The hoarse voice faded. His head drooped. The lumpy shoulders slumped.
"Wake up!" Valerie slapped his cheek. "C'mon Mattie, talk to me. You can't die." Sticky, red-brown blood covered "Marilyn" and her pretty white halter dress with the satin lining. As long as she lived, she would recall that sticky, bloody mess.
Still clad in the wobbly golden heels, Valerie propped the limp body in front of the worn recliner. The bitter taste of bile rose in her throat. Determined to cope, she swallowed. Her jaw stiffened. Mattie's brown eyes stared in quiet accusation.
Across the hall, a stereo blared the Motown music of the Supremes. The aroma of fried fish hung in the humid air. Somewhere, a television droned to the creak of a mattress. Gray light from the empty hallway cast a dim shadow onto Mattie's expressionless face. Valerie slammed the door. Wild-eyed, she gripped the telephone receiver. Her trembling finger punched the numbers and waited. She felt like a killer. She should have opened that door when Mattie asked, no ... begged. It was all her fault. There was a click on the line.
"It's Valerie. You know, Valerie Gains at the Jewel. You know, the Jewel Arms. Yeah." The authority in her raspy voice shocked her. "Apartment A." She took a deep breath, and avoided Mattie's gaze. "There's a dead guy in my living room ... What? Yeah, it's an emergency! How would you like it?" She banged the receiver into its cradle and wept. Mattie stared at Valerie with dark, open eyes.