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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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 37

The last work-in-progress entry for this month. Enjoy!

The Alibi – Chapter 37

Cisily watched the Ngolngol fade away. It left dispersing clouds of smoke in its wake.

She shook her head. This was a fine time for someone to attack SkyHook HQ. She’s seeing a ‘Gin cyclone spirit on the side of a building, a water spirit in Boston Harbor, she sees probably another water spirit of some kind in the water a mile out of harbor and acting like the SkyHook attack is something it knows about or understands.

Jesus Christ, Thorne, get a grip.

Never mind right now.

No SkyHook remotes were transmitting.

This was major.

She signaled the harbormaster of her approach, set the Eglesia on autopilot, and left the pilot house for the captain’s suite.

Screw the business suits. Forget the pushup bra and the screw me now or screw me later thong. She dumped her emergency pack on the king-size bed, put on the plain white sports bra and panties, blue on white rugby shirt, plain grey khakis, and a pair of white cotton blend socks. Reebok asked her to take part in a Women of Boston photo shoot and gave her $2,000 custom fitted blue on white running shoes as a gift. They snugged automatically as the balls of her feet rested in them. She didn’t hesitate.

On deck, she threw some lines to a couple of Harvard’s finest as the Eglesia approached a dock. “Anchor her at my berth and I’ll drown both of you if anything’s missing or broken when I get back.”

The harbormaster warned them. They held the Eglesia secure while Thorne deboarded, covering the distance from deck to dock in one smooth, confident leap. They nodded without looking at her. “Yes, Ma’am.” “Yes, Ms. Thorne.”

The distance from the harbor to SkyHook HQ was five city blocks. Fire trucks, ambulances, and foot patrol officers held vehicular and pedestrian traffic at a standstill. She waved off the Uber driver the harbormaster called for her, ran, and arrived at SkyHook HQ looking like she just stepped out of a Boston Magazine center spread about executive life on the harbor.

Irene Casey, wraparound sunglasses covering her eyes and a regulation short sleeve shirt and matching shorts revealing corded muscles on both arms and legs, stopped her at the crime scene perimeter outside the incident tape.

“I’m Cisily Thorne.”

Casey held up a calloused hand. “I’m the Queen Consort to Prince Charles. Nice to meet you.”

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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 36


The Alibi – Chapter 36

Rexall Shaul lifted a hand to his head.

What the hell happened?

He didn’t remember pain like this since he was a kid and fell full on his nuts on the balance beam. He crumpled and slid off, unable to breathe or think. Coach sat him on the gym’s hardwood floor, legs extended in front in a V, lifted him by the armpits about a foot off the ground and dropped him.

Had to do it several times before his balls dropped back to where they were supposed to be.

Jesus Fucking Christ who took a hammer to his car?

He ran his hand over the buckled roof.

Who the fuck would do this?

To his car!

And there was blood everywhere.

And what was this? Down by a left rear tire?

Which was blown open like a burst balloon, by the way.

And nobody stocked those custom rims local. They’d have to be shipped up from Florida.

Fuck it. That’s what FedEx was for.

Oh, Christ, it was a human hand. Holding a mobile.

He hadn’t seen anything like this since he worked for JAWBREAKER in Bosnia. He trained terrorists in bomb making using mobiles as detonators. Stupid sonsabitches kept forgetting to set conferencing, blocking, and waiting options. Some idiot would misdial a number, ring the mobile before everything was set and there goes two weeks of training and the morons you just taught.

Finally had to get Blackwater to run an NAO honk TXT message board with everything coded as camel racing results.

Even then every time their postings were late he wondered if some towelheaded dirt digger screwed up and another asset was adding to the city’s dust.

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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 35


The Alibi – Chapter 35

Tony Morelli let his car roll forward to a patch of pavement clear of onlookers and reached over the center console to the Impala’s glove compartment.

Ed Vox’ booted feet snapped against the car’s floorboards as he pushed himself back into the passenger seat. “Brake!”

Morelli’s eyes returned to the road. A pudgy-faced, middle-aged, overweight man, long black greasy-looking hair, wraparound Ray-bans and needing a shave stopped in front of the Impala, and stared at Vox. His Arrest-Me-Red jogging suit, white racing stripe up the right leg and continuing on to the ill-fitting jersey top, gave him a bad “Saturday beer and burgers football with the boys” look.

Morelli stopped and honked his horn.

The man cocked his head and continued to stare at Vox. Every few seconds he’d quickly shake his head as if gnats encircled him.

Morelli pointed. “Is that Ron Jeremy and is he refusing to move?”

Vox blinked. “He’s not refusing, he’s remembering, shaking a memory loose.” He opened the glovebox. “What do you need?”

Morelli’s gaze went from the man to Vox. “How do you know that?” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a badge, lowered his window, and called to an idle patrolman watching the crowd. “Officer? A little assistance, please?”

Ron Jeremy scratched his head as the officer approached.

Vox nodded the man then at the crowds and emergency vehicles. “Must be the government plates. How long ago did this happen?”

Morelli held his shield up for the officer and pointed. “Mind removing Ron Jeremy from our path and telling the rest of the BPD we’re coming through?” He turned back to Vox. “And unh-uh. He’s staring at you, not the car. This went down about an hour ago. Came while I was on my way in. You were on the way.”

“Convenient. You plan it that way? And Ron Jeremy the porn star?” He took a long second look. “Yeah, kind of. I guess.”

The officer looked at the man who hadn’t stopped staring and shook his head as he shuffled towards him.

Morelli watched. “There’s a Federal ID in a plastic sheet in there. Mind handing it over?”

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The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 34

I didn’t get much writing done in November. For the first time since pre-Covid, I was doing booksignings, talking about writing, the usual marketing stuff. The holidays came and went and we were busy with those. Also preparing Search for release (the second-round print format is on my desk for review. still waiting for the final cover).

In short, busy.

But I did lots of pissing and moaning about The Alibi in November, mostly to myself, some to others. Lots of plotting and strategizing. Realized a plot point isn’t going to work last night, going to take it out this morning.

Don’t worry, it about twenty chapters from where you are now. You’ll never notice it’s absence. I hope.

Anyway, on with the show!


The Alibi – Chapter 34

Cranston nodded at the crowd control officers who waved him through the gawkers, news crews, and internet-wannabes shoving and jumping with mobiles in hand. He spotted Rhinehold moving slowly through the crowd, alternately TXTing and talking on his mobile, and generally paying no attention to anything but the emergency services vehicles, triage units, and crowd control. Once or twice Cranston saw Rhinehold dip his head towards some people pointing at the destruction and talking but otherwise paying attention to nothing at all.

Cranston nodded. Yeah, Marete was right. Tonto handled this kind of undercover pretty well.

Go figure.

Cranston walked up behind a petite woman covered head to foot in a white Tyvek forensics suit. “Mary Frances.”

The petite woman turned, removed her right glove, her mask, offered him her hand and smiled. “William.”

“What’s a good looking woman like you doing at a crime scene like this?”

Mary Frances kept her eyes on Cranston and nodded in Rhinehold’s direction. “Today’s Tonto?”

Cranston snickered. “John Rhinehold. Shall I introduce you?”

“Won’t that blow his cover?”

Cranston watched forensics personnel come and go from SkyHook’s garage. “When will you be able to talk?”

“Maybe five, ten minutes. They know what to do. I’m just here for the unexpected.”

“Buy you a coffee?”

“Large double-double. And from the coffee shop around the corner, not from Starschmucks.”

“Meet you there.”

Cranston sat on a concrete bench outside the coffee shop, a large double-double and a bag containing a single maple-cream donut beside him.

Rhinehold ambled up with an iced something-or-other from the same shock and sat on the other end of the bench. He took a few experimental sips and tossed his cup in a floral pattern painted city trash can a few feet from where they sat. “Should’ve stuck with real coffee.”

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