The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 42

And more coming together.

The Alibi – Chapter 42

Morelli and Vox drove back to the orchard to the murmur of the AC and the twinkle of a clear nightful of stars. Vox remained quiet the entire drive and Morelli, keeping his eyes on the road, grew increasingly uncomfortable with the silence. Gio Fortuna aka John Chance went quiet and you never knew if he was sitting beside you, a thousand miles away, listening to a conversation only he could hear, seeing how things would play out, and Morelli, wanting to coax Vox out of his silence, offered the obvious. “Long day, huh?”

Vox swallowed hard a few times and wiped a tear from his cheek.

Morelli spoke just above the whisper of the AC. “Tissues in the glove box.”

Vox nodded at an approaching exit. “Turn. Here.”

Morelli looked at the exit. “Is this a different way to your orchard?”

“Okay if we. Go to. The horse. Rescue?”

“You know how to get there?”

Vox grunted and ran his hand over the top of the dashboard. “Clean. Machine.”

Morelli quietly sang, “Penny Lane is in my ears and in my –

Vox turned to him. “Penny Lane?”

“Oh, come on, you don’t know Penny Lane by the Beatles? Magical Mystery Tour? Really?”

“We need to find. Penny Lane. How do we find. Penny Lane?”

“The Penny Lane the Beatles sang about? It’s in Liverpool, England. What’s – ”

“Penny Lane is a person?”

Morelli slowed at the bottom of the ramp. He had his answer. Despite Vox’s protestations, he was Gio’s student. “Which way? And who you talking to now?”

Vox pointed. “Penny Lane is a person. Who’s important. How?”

“You talking to the dead guy again. I get all skeevy when you do that, you know? And what’s at the horse place we need? Or you need?”

Vox indicated another turn. “Horses don’t hit me. When I tell them. Things they need to. Know.”

Morelli sighed. “Yeah, that could’ve gone better. You really pissed her off. I didn’t know you spoke Italian.”

“I spoke. Italian?”

Morelli slowed for an approaching stop sign. “Keep this up and I’ll believe you when you say you don’t know what you’re doing. Do you know what you said?”

“Not a. Clue. Hey!” Vox enunciated each syllable. “More RELL ee. You must speak. Italian. What did I. Say?”

“Hey I’m second generation Italian-American. I can do family names and cussing. Beyond that it’s a crapshoot. Something about her daughter, her daughter’s marriage, and her granddaughter. That’s all I could make out. I’m good with family nouns and cussing. not with verbs, adverbs, adjectives. I can ask about bathrooms. That’s about it.”

Two pickups towing horsetrailers passed them going the opposite direction. “We close?”

They rounded a curve and Vox pointed.

“Yeah, guess we are.” Morelli pulled into a parking space and turned off the ignition. “Are we here just to say hi to the horses or is something else going on?”

Vox exited the car without acknowledgement of any kind and entered the main barn. Horses in the field nickered and pranced to the fence. Those in the paddock stretched their necks over the rail so Vox to touch them as he passed. Bright flood lights threw long angular shadows of Vox and the horses.

Morelli leaned back against his Impala and watched the shadows move and merge like alien dancers on some sacred landscape. He whispered, “They’re greeting a freind.” He ran a hand through his thick hair. “Probably say hi to friends and something else.”

He pushed off and followed as Vox entered the barn and remained outside, a witness to the mystery, not a disciple.

Horses stuck their heads out of their stalls and nickered as Vox approached. He stopped roughly mid-barn, arms outstretched, hands open and forward. Some horses shook their heads, others whinnied, some stomped their hooves, one or two snorted. They nickered, they nodded. Some lifted their tails and shit. One or two peed. Quaterhorses, Morgans, Thoroughbreds. Breeds Morelli couldn’t identify except from beer commercials. All wounded, scarred. One missing an eye. One hopping on three legs. Morelli shuddered.

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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 41

Yep, definitely coming together.

The Alibi – Chapter 41

Ginni held her keys in her hand as she walked from the elevator to her condo. She kept her buttocks tight to keep a tampon in place.

She couldn’t remember Briggs being so…violent? He was always demanding but most of the time he expected her to do all the work. The only difference was when he drove the hershey highway. He actually expected her to do office work when she was bent over, her skirt pulled up around her hips, her hands filing folders or typing when she wasn’t bracing herself against his desk.

Sick fuck.

But this time?

This time he practically lifted her off the ground with his thrusts.

All three of them.

What the hell was his problem this time?

And when he was done?

“Go clean yourself up and get back to work.”

She so wanted to say, “Yes, Massah. Thank you, Massah,” but kept her mouth shut.

Thank god she kept an extra set of clothes in the office.

Her mobile rang her mother’s TXT as she turned the key and opened her door. “Not now, Mother.”

Inside her condo, her mother TXTed again.

She threw her mobile, pocketbook, and briefcase on the floor, undressed on her way to the bathroom, left her clothes where they dropped from her, and turned on the shower full and redline hot.

Her mother TXTed again.

“Fuck off, Mother.”

A steaming shower, a vigorous shampoo, a full lathering of shower gel, and a generous smothering of her skin with body lotion followed by her thickest, most plush, bathrobe.

What else?

A good Oban, neat. Double. Yeah

Her mother TXTed again.

“Oh Jesus Fuck, Mother.”

She picked up her mobile.

“What the fuck?”

Her mother TXTed her the entire time she was in the shower.


The same message every thirty seconds.

What, did she have it on autodialer or something? Had someone hacked her mother’s cellphone and given the info to robodailers?

She called and got voicemail.

She dropped the robe and got into sweats and trainers.

Somebody knocked on her door.

“Mom?” She opened the door without looking to see who was there. Her hand fumbled coding her lock. “That you, Mom?”

No answer.

She looked up.

A late middle-age guy, clean shaven, nice tan, dusty brown hair sliding towards gray, gave her a great smile while his bright gray eyes gave her a once over. The way his eyes moved and the way he smiled, she wondered if he had x-ray vision.

She moved back behind her door and braced it with a foot and both hands. “What is it? I’m in a hurry and need to be somewhere.”

“Yes, your mother’s. Correct?”

Her hands relaxed slightly. “Are you with police? Is my mother okay?”

“May I come in?”

Whoever this guy was, he seemed the polar opposite of Lane. Lane was smooth when it served him while remaining an asshole through and through.

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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 40

More threads, more merging.

The Alibi – Chapter 40

Cisily lounged naked on the Lady Eglesia‘s maindeck after piloting it far enough out that Boston appeared only as a bright hump on the western horizon. A meteor burned across the sky and she imagined it smacking into the Atlantic, boiling the ocean, tidal waves leaping from its impact, people racing to get inland, …

She shook her head to clear it, took a deep gulp of a martini she’d only waved the cork at, and giggled like a schoolgirl chatting with mates about their prom dates.

Except she never went to a prom. Any prom.

Oh, she’d been on dates. The boys figured her easy because a) she was a lubra and b) anybody built like her had to be asking for it.

They didn’t realize this bitch had teeth sharper than a croc’s and they were the ones to do the asking.

Another meteor blazed across the heavens. You could see them clearly, in all their northern glory, this far out of the city. Sometimes she’d turn off everything save her runniing lights just to watch unhindered by background light.

This one must have come in low. She heard it crackling across the sky.

A light breeze walked across the deck, rustling things uncovered, moving things unsecured, the sounds of their movements coming to her like silent footsteps, questioning hands.

Coming high up and out of the north, something thin and black obscured some stars as it traveled across the sky.

Couldn’t be a commercial aircraft. They’d need their lights on. Unless there was some malfunction.

And couldn’t be a satellite or the ISS or one of the shuttles. Traveling north to south, they’d reflect the sun from suborbital on up.

One the old bushmen – George? – knew how to go up into the heavens and taught her when she was young.

She giggled again. Yeah, she was young. Impressionable. Goerge or whoever told her about Auwanbananggnari, a male landsnake and wunggud animal of the earth, who had an argument with a beautiful young girl who’d become a constellation.

“That’s you, Little Girl. That’s you.”

Right now she believed it possible.

The dark star continued through the night. It seemed to slow. At least it wasn’t occulting stars as rapidly as before.

Perhaps there weren’t that many stars left to occult?

“What the hell are you thinking, Thorne?” She finished her martini and put the glass down beside her. “Add this freaky to the rest of today’s freakies.” The drink and the sky relaxed her. A breeze brought a long ago scent to her. Urine on hot stone. “Nitjamrung gnari?” The scent called back old stories, old memories, made her giddy. “Didn’t know I remember that; ‘Somebody pissed here’.”

Another meteor. Lower still. Glowed hotter than the other ones. Almost like an ember looking for something to burn. And this one cackled. She could’ve sworn she heard laughter. And came down close enough she should have felt the wave.

“Get a grip, Thorne. First you think you’ve walked through a spirit, then the pillars at the garage entrance turn in Nightjar Men. Wodoiya and Djingun. Thank god that hippie kept you moving forward or people would’ve tripped over you.”

A meteor cut a high arc in the sky, lifting from a shining place far in the east.

The Sunrise Gate?

She watched it flare and spark and burst into flames high above her and continue its arc down, down, down, closer, closer, closer, until –

“Holy Shit! It’s going to hit!”

Cisily stood up but the sea swelled and the Eglesia rocked. Between that and the booze and the exhaustion of the day, she fell back into her lounge chair.

But there were no waves and the sea didn’t swell. “Something from that other meteor, maybe?”

The fire fell lower and lower and Cisily closed her eyes. “Coming home, Ancestors. Please welcome me.”

The fire landed squarely on her deck. She heard Creation Songs and Old Ones and Storytellers, smelled the soft smells of croc and emu cooking. A gentle tapping on her toes made her open her eyes. A Bunyip sat on its haunches beside the fire, a long thing stick in its hand it used to tap her.

Boro? A learning fire?”

“What your skin?”

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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 39

Threads begin to merge…

I hope.

The Alibi – Chapter 39

Vox and Morelli stood beside the Impala while an officer read Morelli’s ID into his shoulder mic.

He handed it back. “Anything I can get you, Director?”

“Tony’s fine. I’m good.” He looked at Vox. “You good?”

Vox nodded while surveying the mayhem. “People are a little bit jumpy.”

Morelli tucked his shield and ID into a vest pocket. “Destruction on this scale, that’s bound to happen.” He turned back to the officer. “You said a Detective Bill Cranston’s in charge of this?”

“He was.” The officer nodded over his shoulder. “Not sure where he is now. Probably with Doc Cuccello. They work pretty tight togehter. You taking over now?”

“No, let him finish his job but tell him I’d like to see him when he’s done here and sooner rather than later.”

Vox watched Shaul move through the crowd towards them, a column of empty air people avoided it without realizing it. Vox’ tracked Shaul’s approach like a dog catching a scent on the breeze.

“You okay?”

Vox’ nodded towards Shaul. “You can’t see this guy, right?”

“What guy?”

Vox focused directly in front of him. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”

Shaul reached out and grabbed his shoulders. “You can see me!”

“Yes, I can.”

Shaul’s hands fell from Vox’ shoulders. “Hey, don’t I know you?”

Vox shook his head. “Not that I know of.”

Morelli followed Vox’ gaze and saw nothing. “Who you talking to?”

“What’s your name?”

“Rexall Shaul. What happened? Am I alive and everyone else is dead? Or am I dead? And you, too? Anybody else?” He caught his breath and cocked his head slightly. “You sure we don’t know each other?”

Vox kept his eyes on Shaul’s ghost while he addressed Morelli. Were there any casualties?”

Morelli checked his phone. “At least one but that’s not confirmed, probably some anxious reporter wanting to scoop everyone running with a rumor.”

“There’s defnitely one. His name’s Rexall Shaul.”

Shaul looked from Vox to Morelli and back. “I’m a casualty? I’m dead? But you can see and hear me? How come you can see me and nobody else can?”

“Yes, you’re standing right here in front of me and I can see and hear you. Touch you, too, if you’d like.” Vox proved his point by giving Shaul a gentle shove. “And yes, you’re a casualty. That’s why nobody else has any awareness of you.”

Shaul leaned against the Impala. “I’m dead.” He straightened up and ran his hands over Morelli’s car. “How come I can feel this. Is this car special?”

“One thing at a time. You’re mostly dead.”

“Mostly dead? What is this, the goddamn Princess Bride?”

“You’re mostly dead because something’s stopping you from completing your journey to the next place. The further you are on your journey, the less you can interact with things in this place.”

“Oh, Christ. ‘The next place’? Father Hunter was right? Now I find out that fucker was right all along?”

It was Vox’ turn to cock his head slightly. “Father Hunter?”

Morelli put his hands behind his back, rocked on his heels, and smiled up while looking out over the seafront. “Yeah, I remember my dad talking on the phone in the kitchen. We could only hear one side of the conversation. My brothers and I use to fill in the blanks. Made my mother laugh. Dad threatened to strangle us with the phone cord if we didn’t stop. They had cords on phones back then. Yeah, I remember it well.” He brought his gaze back to Vox. “Who you goddamn talking to?”

“A witness to the blast, probably. You said you’re name’s Rexall Shaul?”

Morelli pulled out his phone and tapped the screen. “Rexall Shaul? Who the hell name’s their kid Rexall?”

Shaul continued shaking his head. He answered numbly. “My mother. She named me after the pharmacy chain she where she got her birth control pills.”

Vox relayed the information.

“You’re making this up, right?”

“Like I told you, you can’t see him. Remember?”

Shaul once again grabbed Vox’ shoulders. “How come you can see me?”

Vox gently put Shaul’s hands down. “Because I’m…special.”

“Oh fucking Jesus Christ you mean the only one I can talk to is the guy who rides the short bus?”

Morelli waved a hand through Shaul’s head. “Assuming this is for real, is there a way I can talk with him?”

Shaul raised his hand to shove Morelli’s away and it passed through Morelli’s chest. “Can you make him stop doing that?”

“How many times I have to tell you I’m new to this and don’t know what I’m doing?”

Shaul and Morelli spoke in tandem. “Who you talking to, him or me?”

Wilkins stepped around the policeman separating him from Morelli and Vox and directly inot Shaul’s space. “You mentioned Father Hunter. Did you know Father Hunter?”

Shaul stepped out of Wilkins and studied him. “Yeah, yeah. I knew this guy, too. I knew both of you when we were kids.”

Irene Casey and the linebacker came up on either side of Wilkins. Wilkins turned from one to the other and stopped when his eyes met Casey’s. “Officer Casey. Hello. How are you? Do you remember me? I offered you some water. An energy drink? Remember?”

Casey rolled her eyes. “Yes, I remember you, Mr. Wilkins.”

“Phil, please. Call me Phil.”

Morelli took out his shield again and showed the two new arrivals. “You know this man, Officer? Can I trust you to see to this with a minimum of fuss?”

Wilkins put his arm around Casey’s shoulders. “Officer Casey and I are friends. She helped me out a while back. You remember, right, Officer Casey?”

Casey shrugged off Wilkins’ arm. “Word’s already spread you’re here, Sir. I’ve been asked to take you to Detective Cranston. He’s current lead on this. Dr. Cuccello’s handling forensics. She’ll be giving Cranston a prelim by the time we get there. Would you follow me, Sir?”

Wilkins expression turned into that of an ignored puppy. “Officer Casey?”

She nodded at the linebacker. “This officer will take care of you, Mr. Wilkins.”

Morelli walked beside Casey, Vox and Shaul in step behind them.

Morelli thumbed back at Wilkins. “Friend of yours, Officer?”

“God I hope not.”

They didn’t notice Vox slowing down.


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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 38

Welcome to 2024!

Where’s my flying car?

I should put one in this story as a joke, or as something people joke about.

By the way, I spent most of December starting with Chapter 1 and rewriting as necessary to foreshadow, backshadow, illuminate, and decalcify.

Okay, maybe not the last, but at this point I’m not sure the finished novel will look much like that’s being offered here.

Forewarned is Fivearmed, as they say.

The Alibi – Chapter 38

Leddy sat on the T, her backpack under her seat and with one leg through a shoulder strap to stop thieves from boosting it, and frowned at her tablet. The replay of SIMON’s transmission showed the black Surburban traveling Boylston to Thompson Square. “That’s not where Lane, Cuomo, and Greenberg’s security keep their vehicles. And it was no where near Brigg’s office.” The Suburban took a turn towards Incubation Square. “You’re taking her to the crime scene?” The Suburban jagged across lanes of traffic and went into the Ted Williams Harbor Tunnels city-side entrance.

Leddy considered. “Yeah, take a tunnel, easy to follow. But who do you think’s following you?”

SIMON signalled LOW CEILING and waited for instructions. SIMON could navigate the tunnels unaided but Leddy wasn’t sure how people driving would handle a drone flying over their heads, plus its power meter was closing on Low/Empty. Leddy signalled back DOCK MARIA | SLEEP. SIMON gracefully flew an arc over and across Boston’s skyline from the tunnel entrance to Maria’s North End apartment building. There it lowered itself into a cradle docking station Maria let Leddy place on her rooftop. SIMON signaled EOT | LATER GIRL and powered down.

Leddy chuckled and swiped the screen. “Why build one when you can have two at twice the price?”

A kid in a BU t-shirt sitting across from her looked up and smiled. He lifted an oversize mobile and pressed it against his throat. The mobile spoke in a SIRI like voice. “John Hurt? Contact?”

Leddy smiled back.

The kid pressed the oversized mobile against his throat again. “Only, this one can be kept secret. Controlled by Americans, built by the Japanese subcontractors. Who, also, happen to be, recently acquired, wholly-owned subsidiaries…”

Poor guy. Young to have throat cancer. She finished the line. “… of Hadden industries.”

The kid smiled and pressed his mobile agianst his throat a third time. “They still want an American to go, Doctor.”

Leddy laughed. “Wanna take a ride?”

Press. “Clever girl.” He pulled the mobile away and laughed silently.

Leddy caught a glance of his wide-open mouth and turned away as the T pulled into the station. “This is my stop. Bye.”

Leddy stood on the platform as the train left the station. “Poor kid. Wonder how long he’ll have those scars in his mouth? Wonder if he can swallow with a tongue like that?” She pulled her tablet out of her pack while waiting for her transfer to come in and reviewed SIMON’s transmission. Both her father and Briggs would want to know about this, but Pop had some serious issues with unauthorized surveillance.

Their last discussion on the matter ended not well. She’d stood up to him, hands on hips, a damp dish towel flopping against her legs because it was her turn to dry. “You mean like the government does? You mean like BPD goes when it needs to?”

Cranston mimicked his daughter’s stance as they squared off in their kitchen. “The BPD does it with a court order. So whatever we learn can be used in court.”

She shot back. “How about to gather enough evidence to get a court order?”

Cranston shook his head and dipped his hands back in the steaming, soapy water to retrieve the sponge and another of the pots used to make dinner. “You’ve been talking to Dr. Cuccello too much.”

“Yeah, well at least she appreciates what I’m doing.”

Bill slumped against the sink counter. Leddy reached out to his arm. “No, Pop! I didn’t mean you. I meant all the other pinheads who can’t keep up.”

Cranston nodded but kept his eyes on the soapy water. He made spaghetti with a bag of Maria Francesca’s homemade sauce and the still steaming water’s suds were taking on a distinct orange hue. He muttered, “Pinhead.”

“Pop, I didn’t mean it. You know I didn’t mean it.”

His hands kept busy in the water. His frowned a few times. No pots, pans, plates, or silverware emerged.

Leddy shrugged her right shoulder up and wiped a tear from her face. “Pop, please.”

He looked at her and smiled. A hand slowly lifted from the water and pointed. “Know any pinheads who could do this?”

A sudsy happy face smiled up from the water. Cranston dried his hands and held his daughter close. “I know you’re frustrated, Leddy. I know you didn’t mean it. But let’s face it, Led, there are some damned idiots out there, and they’re always in positions over you, aren’t they? So you need to talk, and your SIStah MaRIa ain’t around, give your old Pop a try.” He let go and went back to washing.

But she knew that wasn’t steam he wiped off his cheeks when he thought she wasn’t looking.

She vowed never to let her frustration get away from her again.

Leddy focused on her tablet, checked its time and the timestamp on SIMON’s last send. “They’re not through the tunnel yet. Can’t be.” She tapped an icon and SIMON TOO, SIMON’s twin and one of Leddy’s deepest secrets, responded YES MISTRESS.

Leddy shook her head. “That’s the last time I code language engines watching old Doctor Who episodes.” She tapped in the GPS co-ordinates of the East Boston end of the Ted Williams.

SIMON TOO dutifully arced over Boston and the Harbor to I90’s Logan-side. Leddy transmitted the Surburban’s information to the drone and it began matching vehicles from two-thousand feet up. Too small to be picked up by radar, she set SIMON TOO’s proximity sensors high while it perused the area.


Tunnel traffic crawled. It crawled in SIMON’s transmission, it crawled in SIMON TOO’s transmission.

“They couldn’t have made it through already.”

SIMON TOO stood station at 500 feet, right at the FAA’s navigational ceiling for unlicensed aircraft.

She watched, checked her phone, watched. Still nothing.

And no reports of a backup on the Boston side, coming or going.

“Where’d they go?”

She looked up as her next ride screeched inot the station. “Better not tell anyone until I’ve learned more.” She put her tablet back in her backpack and boarded the T. “You’re right, Pen. I’m a lot like my father.”

SIMON TOO beeped an alert. FOUND IT.

Leddy glanced at her tablet. Yep, there it was, emerging from the tunnel on the Logan side. She snorted. “Finally!”

She boarded the T as SIMON TOO flashed another message. ASPECT CHANGE.

SIMON TOO superimposed calibration lines on the shifting image. The Suburban rode higher than before, than before it went into the tunnel. “What, did they change the shocks? In the tunnel?”

SIMON TOO transmitted a microwave image of the SUV’s interior. Only the driver.

“Pen and the others got out? In the middle of the tunnel?”

The subway car pulled out of the station. On the opposite end of the car’s track, on the side where it entered the station, the kid in the BU t-shirt walked out of the darkness, his eyes on Leddy’s departing train.


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