The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 43 Section V Mega Chapter 2 (part 10)

The Alibi – Chapter 43 Section V Mega Chapter 2 (part 10)

Cranston stood in his kitchen going through the cupboards. An empty, resusable cotton grocery bag lay on the counter in front of him like a sleeping kitten. “Leddy? Dr. Cuccello invited us over to her place for dinner. She gave me a list of things to bring. Care to help me find them? What we don’t have here I’ll have to pick up on the way. Leddy?”

Leddy, in a “Go Pats” neck to knee nightshirt, slid across the kitchen’s linoleum flooring on stockinged feet. “You have a list?”


“She didn’t give you a list? C’mon, Pop. She’s more anal than you.”

Cranston kept shifting things around in the cupboards. “She TXTed me.”

Leddy sat on the countertop facing her father. “She TXTed you and you lost it, right? Deleted it by accident?”

“Damned phone.”

She held her hand out. He gave her his phone without looking. A few swipes and taps later she read off, “Hot or sweet Italian sausage. From Buello’s, not Brüdermann’s. Hey, Maria’s cool. She even umlauted the u in Brüdermann.”

“Women. And it’s Dr. Cuccello.”

“She lets me call her Maria.”

Cranston turned to her. “Maria? Not even Maria Francesca?”

“Just Maria.”

“She never let me call her just Maria.”

Leddy raspberried her father. “You know she likes you, right?”

Cranston stopped going through the cupboards and looked at the grocery bag. “She tell you that?”

“Women know these things.”

“Yeah, right. And since when are you a woman?”

“Pop, I’ve been having my period for two years now.”

“Do I need to know this?” He looked at his daughter. “For two years now?”

“You never noticed the box of mixed tampons in the shopping cart every month or so?”

He went back to filling the grocery bag. “I know I don’t need to know this. And where’d you learn about tampons?”

“Maria told me. She asked before my period started and told me to get ready and what to do.”

Cranston sagged. “Oh, god.”

“She even gave me a couple tamps and told me to keep them handy just in case.”

Cranston focused on the grocery bag. He roved his cupboards and moved items, desperate to return them to their place.

“It’s a Sisterhood thing, Pop. We Sistahs know things about each other.”

“Can we change the subject?”

She pumped her arms up over her head and sang, “Sistahs, are doing it for themselves!” She kept pumping her arms and shaking her head. “Come on, Pop! Sing! Sistahs, are doing it for themselves.”

Her father kept moving cans and tins back and forth on cupboard shelves. “What else is on the list?”

She read the remainder of the list and glanced at the clock on the stove: 8:30am. “Hey! We’re making pizzas, right?”

Cranston closed his cupboards, rolled the grocery bag into a ball, and took his phone back. “We’re going shopping.”

Friends offered to back Maria Francesca Cuccello should she want to open a pizza parlor. She politely refused. “I make pizza for friends, not for money.”

She had lots of friends. Her pizza was known from Portland to Atlantic through Central Canada, down to Chicago and Denver, over to Atlanta, DC, Baltimore, NYC, and back to Boston. Also overseas. In Naples. Where her life was jokingly threatened if she didn’t give up her recipes. “Watch me. Learn that way.”

But it didn’t matter. Each time things were slightly different based on the feel of the flour, the taste of the water, the freshness of the yeast, what vegetables were local, …

Leddy, ready in short order, came back into the kitchen with her backpack over one shoulder. She grabbed the car keys off their hook by the back door. “I’ll drive, Pop.”
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Cranston picked a second grocery bag from the closet. “Remember your father is old and scares easy.”

Maria Francesca opened the door as Cranston reached the top of the stairs, a full grocery bag in each hand. Leddy, in the rear, guided him with a hand on the middle of his back. “Congrats, Pop! You made it.” She pointed at two kittens silkscreened on Maria’s long-sleeve t-shirt. “Wow, nice. One over each boobie, and it looks like they’re playing with each other.”

Cranston turned and glowered at his daughter.

“What? I meant the kittens, not her boobies.”

Maria Francesca burst out laughing. “Thanks. Picked it up at a fleamarket.”

Cranston turned back to Maria. “You never heard of elevators? Don’t you own this building and you couldn’t install an elevator?”

“It’s my combined senior citizen-solicitor deterrent system. You soliciting for something?”


“Then you must be a senior citizen.” She lifted one bag from him. “Leddy, bring your old man in here before I have to give him mouth-to-mouth.”

Leddy stepped around her father, glared and nudged him when she passed. He rolled his eyes at her.

Leddy followed Maria into the kitchen. “Hey, Maria, you won’t need me for a while once we get the sponge going, right? I need to install new software in SIMON and run some tests.”

Maria emptied her grocery bag on her kitchen table. “I keep the roof keys in my bedroom. Come on and I’ll show you where.” Leddy followed Maria as dutifully as a novice following a nun. Maria stood behind the door and motioned Leddy in close. “I didn’t get it at a flea market, Led. It was a gift from an old teacher.”

Leddy burst out laughing and Maria glared at her. “Shhh!”

Leddy kept her voice girl-talk confidential. “God, don’t let Pop hear that. He’ll be jealous and never ball up.”

“Ball up about what?”

“He likes you. But you knew that, didn’t you?”

Maria lifted a red-ribboned skeleton key off a rack behind her door and walked back to the kitchen. “First rising’s in an hour. Irene Casey’s coming later. Said she’s bringing a friend. We should have plenty of hands to help. Take your time.”

Leddy checked her phone. “Who’s Irene Casey.”

Maria and Cranston talked over each other. “New lab assistant.” “Patrolwoman.”

Cranston placed the remaining grocery bag on a chair. “Is this so SIMON will do what I ask?”

Maria opened the package of white butcher-paper wrapped sausages and held them to her nose. “Good choice. Fresh this morning. There’s nothing on the roof to get her in trouble, Detective.” She picked up a spatula and shook it at Leddy. “You’re not going to make a liar out of me, are you, Sistah?”



Previous entries in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery)

The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 43 Section V Mega Chapter 2 (part 9)

The Alibi – Chapter 43 Section V Mega Chapter 2 (part 9)

John Rhinehold palmed his BPD Detective’s shield as he stepped out of his blue Suburu WRX. He parked across the street from the police barricades and crime scene tapes and the WRX, modified well beyond Suburu’s specs, locked itself and went on stand-by as he walked away. He pulled a pair of heavier than usual RayBans out of his shirt pocket, put them on, and put in some earbuds.

His phone pinged a TXT message. The phone had four SIMs which activated randomly and he routinely switched these with a number of SIMs he kept specifically for randomizing purposes. The incoming TXT came from one of his burners planted at locations from Portland through Portsmouth to Boston then onto Providence, Hartford, and NYC. It’d be pointless to TXT back because whoever knew about the phone would know enough to destroy the SIM and smash the phone for double-good measure.

He read the TXT and his eyebrows lifted momentarily.

A foot patrol officer came up to him. “Something I can do for you?”

Rhinehold put his phone away and flashed his badge. The foot officer nodded and let him past.

SkyHook security didn’t accept the badge as valid until Throne gave him an Okay via a phone call. “Yeah, he was with me yesterday. Let him through but keep your eyes on him. No souvenir hunting.”

The security guard, wearing a dark gray pinstripe suit, open collared pink oxford sans tie, and comfortable loafers, smiled at Rhinehold. “I’ll go with you. Maybe you’ll see something we missed.”

Rhinehold smiled. Smooth, friend. Smooth.

Forensics hadn’t cleared the blast zone for cleanup and grit crunched underfoot as they walked. Rhinehold smiled. The crunching reminded him of his mother’s stories of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, how everybody and their brother scrambled to get a piece of history and offer it to the highest bidders, how the ground crunched underfoot from gravel to grit as more and more people came from around the world to claim this moment of history.

The backwash of daylight grew less and less as they walked deeper and deeper into the garage. Rhinehold pulled a small light out of his pocket and flicked it on. A pale green light misted in the garage like a gentle spring rain.

The guard squinted into the light’s mist.”Doesn’t throw much light.” He lifted his phone. Rhinehold held his hand up. “No thanks. I got this.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to take off your sunglasses?”

“Sensitive eyes.”

Rhinehold splayed the light back and forth like it was a hand-held lighthouse searching for ships lost at sea.

Nothing, nothing.

Nothing, nothing.

They walked towards Shaul’s destroyed Exige.


Rhinehold stopped walking. His brow furrowed, his hand held the light still and fixed as he focused.

The guard squinted into the dim green light. “What? What is it?”
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Rexall Shaul sat on the remains of his Exige shaking his head. The sharp edges left by the explosion didn’t bother him. He realized he didn’t interact with objects normally any more. He could sit on, sit halfway in so twisted metal came through him, sit on the floor with his head poking through what use to be a fender and wheel well. It didn’t matter. “Fuck that heaven and hell bullshit they taught me in Sunday School, right, Shaul? Oh, no, Father Huntress, none of that matters now, huh? And all those times you asked me into your office to help you with your robes? You sick fuck. But I have you to thank for setting me on this path, didn’t I?” He laughed. “Yeah, a fucking path to being dead and unable to do anything about it.”

A thought struck him and his head snapped up. “Hey…where are all the other dead people? Boston? The waterfront? I can’t be the only person who’s died here in all of history. Thiis place should be crawling with spooks.”

A green light filled the garage and he felt it as a pressure on his skin, the warmth of sunlight on a Bermuda beach. “This is not how it’s suppose to be. I had a job to do. I was careful. I fucking trained saboteurs and terrorists, goddammit.” He looked up, his eyes above the lightbeam and directly on Rhinehold face. “Shit. The last time we worked together was JAWBREAKER. And you thought we made out well then? Boss, if only I was alive and could tell you what I’ve learned. We could both be rich.” He stood up. “Wait a second. I’m a ghost. And I decide how much I interact with not-dead things.” A twisted smile creased his lips.


Rhinehold’s glasses picked up an ion-trace trailing through the garage, it went back and forth like a dog tracking down a fox. The trace increased density at the rear of the Exige, as if whatever caused it stopped to admire the flash car.

An invisibility cloak?

All the tech companies he’d looked into were close but wrong and the goal was a cloak like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. He heard SkyHook was close. His man here never reported anything like this but this cinched it.

The ion trace. The byproduct of polarized matter?

Something else flickered on the edge of light. He turned the light towards it. A fresh trace. It moved out from the Exige.

He kept moving the light and played it on the walls and floor, always keeping it moving while he adjusted both the beam and his glasses. A trace flickering, yes, and he took a chance and followed the trail.

There it was. Polarized matter.

Keep the light moving!

Whoever this operative was, they may be able to tell when his light hits them. Keep it moving.

One trace active.

He took a dare, caught an image from the floor, traced it’s foggy outline up.

Jesus Fuck Christ! It’s a man!

He kept the light moving up unilt it played along the ceiling.

Whoever it was came back to check on the damage? What the hell did they use that was portable and could do this kind of damage?

He’d worry about that later.

The fog outlined figure turned and looked directly at him. He kept moving his light all around, using his peripheral vision to determine where they were, his eyes always looking where the fog figures wasn’t while seeing where it was for another thirty seconds, then removed his glasses. “Yeah, right. Much better with the sunglasses off, huh? Duh.”

Rhinehold chuckled as he secured his glasses and the light back in his pockets.

A functioning invisibility cloak was good enough, but polarized matter could give you real anti-gravity.

And what a wonderful weapon that would make.

SkyHook’s security guy looked around. “Did you hear that?”


Previous entries in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery)

The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 43 Section V Mega Chapter 2 (part 8)

The Alibi – Chapter 43 Section V Mega Chapter 2 (part 8)

Willmette and Seamus sat at Willmette’s Park Plaza suite’s dining table. Willmette led Seamus down a utility staircase at Logan to a waiting limo. The driver said nothing and brought them to the Park Plaza. Another man, not dressed as a doorman, opened Seamus’ door, waited for Willmette to come around the car, and led them both to Willmette’s suite.

Willmette nodded at him. “Thank you. That’ll be all.”

The door clicked shut and Seamus faced Willmette. “Am I kidnapped?”

Willmette pulled back. “Certainly not.”

“A hostage, then?”

Willmette snorted. “No.”

“Then where’s me cousin and why am I here?”

“As I said before, I don’t know where Sean – ”

“How do you know his name?”

“I know his name, your name, your bride’s name, your parents’ names, your – ”

Seamus banged his fist on the table. “Enough. What do you want with me?”

“Me? I’d love to learn more about this amazing discovery you and your cousin made under Boston Harbor. The people I work for? Pretty much the same thing.”

“Pretty much?”

“They want information.”

“Ah, I’m Number Six now, is that it?”

“The Patrick Magoohan series was so much better than the McKellen-Caviezel one, don’t you agree?”

“What’s to stop me from walking out that door right now, Number 2?”

Willmette shook his head. “I really am Red Willmette. At some point you’ll have to start trusting me.”

“Where’s Sean?”

“I’m famished. Would you like some breakfast?”

The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 43 Section V Mega Chapter 2 (part 7)

The Alibi – Chapter 43 Section V Mega Chapter 2 (part 7)

Penny and Tommy emerged from the Logan side of the harbor tunnels. She glanced occasionally at stores, traffic, pedestrians, and remained quiet as they drove up 1A towards Revere. “Long way home, don’t you think?”

Tommy glanced at her in the rear-view mirror. “Making sure we’re not followed, Ms. Lane.”

“I have to piss.”

“You didn’t go before we left?”

“The espresso. I can piss the seat if you’d like.”

He pulled into a gas station.

“Are you kidding? Look at this place. I’ll get the clap just asking for the key.”


She pointed to a 7-11 a block down. “That place looks clean enough.”

He pulled into the 7-11. “I’ll be right here when you’re done.”

“I’m so comforted.”

Penny walked up to the cashier. They exchanged words, the cashier pointed to a hall at the rear of the store. Penny nodded and headed in that direction.

Tommy played ten games of solitaire on his phone, checked the time, and made a call.

Connelly answered. “What do you think?”

“Do I think she’ll keep her end of the bargain? No. Do you?”

“She’s intelligent but not clever. She’ll do what we want, not what was asked. Or do you think we made a mistake letting her go?”

“You think she’ll lead us right to him?”

“I think he’s both intelligent and clever, too clever for that. She’ll get us close and hopefully close enough. There’ll still be a gap we’ll have to cross.” Connelly paused. “Put on a good show of looking for her, just in case, then head on back.”


“Good work, by the way.”


Previous entries in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery)

The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 43 Section V Mega Chapter 2 (part 6)

The Alibi – Chapter 43 Section V Mega Chapter 2 (part 6)

Naomi took a final tour of the store, stood before her open changing room locker, gathered her things, and surveyed the employee lounge. It was a little past the end of 3rd shift, the time when insomniacs and early risers mingled, the former anxious to go and the latter anxious to get going. The two things they had in common were coffee and energy drinks. She got third shift because the first and second shift supervisors were afraid of her, the store populace went down about a third overnight, and she could pretty much do what she pleased.

The lounge – not so much a lounge as a high-priced cafeteria with a “commercial free” company video feed of good and bad employee behavior. One of the guys from automotive gave the screen the finger. A few others laughed – was industrailly antiseptically homey; neutral colors, comfortably uncomfortable couches, tables, and chairs, and all from the Damaged-in-Shipping containers out back of the store.

Naomi wondered when she’d appear in the “bad employee” videos. She closed her locker and spun the dial. Pitiful. Anybody could break in with a sharp yank.

But right now her concern was her absent teammate. “Anybody seen Annabelle?”

“Check with HR. If she clocked in, she’s here.”

She hadn’t.

The kindly grandmother type in HR typed on her keyboard then looked at Naomi over the top of her readers. “You’ll need to talk to her manager, Ms. Dillinger.”

Naomi went back out to the floor and cornered her latest manager, a skinny, older woman who pulled her hair back into a bun so tight Naomi considered it a cheap replacement for botox and plastic surgery. “Did Annabelle’s shift change?”

“She hasn’t been back since the detergent spill.”

The kindly grandmother type in HR reluctantly wrote down Annabelle’s phone number and address address for Naomi. “You won’t tell anybody, will you dear? I need this job.”

Naomi smiled. “You’re safe, Mrs. …” Naomi searched for a nametag and finally caught sight of an opened bill the woman tried to hide under her hand. “Lane.” Naomi cocked her head. “Mrs. Lane?”

A tear created a path in the old woman’s blush. “Yes?”

She studied the woman’s face, probably seeing her for the first time, and noticed the jaw line, the set of the cheeks, the brow.

Although old, the woman still carried the family facial features. “Are you related to Briggs Lane?”

The woman bowed her head. “Yes.”

“Isn’t he one of Boston’s Homegrown Billionaires?”

Mrs. Lane’s voice broke but she recovered quickly. “I wouldn’t know. I see his name in the papers sometimes.”

Naomi glanced at the open bill again. “May I?”

Mrs. Lane lifted her hand. Naomi saw “Overdue” stamped in large red letters across the top. She picked it up and read the amount. About ten dollars more than her weekly take home. “HR can transfer my paycheck to another employee if I sign off on it, right?”

Mrs. Lane’s eyebrows rose. “I don’t know. I’ve never had that request before.”

“Where do you live, Ms. Lane?”

“The North End.”

Naomi pulled back. “The North End? Isn’t it expensive living up there?”

“A nice policewoman owns the building. It’s been in her family for years. She lets me live there. All I have to do is pay the utilities.”

Naomi pulled back. “Annette Funicello?” She shook her head. “No, that’s not right.” She closed her eyes and furrowed her brow. “Cuccello.”

“You know Marie?”

“A friend invited me there for lunch today. Or dinner. Not sure which.”

“Oh, you’re lucky. I’ll bet she’s making pizzas. Sometimes she makes them and brings a slice or two to everybody in the building.”

Naomi nodded. Thank god there were kind hearts out there. “Then you’re Annabelle’s neighbor? I don’t know that area. You live close to her?”

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