Work in Progress, Book Six in the Frank Nagler mystery series, so far titled NAGLER’S SECRET, will have a new role for Annie, the young, silent girl whose mystery was central to the third book in the series, THE WEIGHT OF LIVING.
Here’s a peek:
Leonard’s fingers jittered on the table to the rumble of the jackhammers tearing holes in the street for new gas lines just outside his window. He closed his eyes and absorbed the motion as the building vibrated to the concussive burr-rupp of steel on concrete; the sound made his back hurt.
The book store had quieted after the raucous lunch crowd cleared Barry’s counter and dragged their loud chatter to the street. Leonard had come to know the regulars as they greeted him on their way in or out, not just by voice, but by their height as measured by how far above his seat their voice seemed, by their footfall or the size of their hand on his shoulder as they greeted him.
He had never seen any of their faces, but would be able to pick them from a crowd if he had to, his blind boy’s survival skill.
He smiled as he honed in on cook Tony’s mangled version of “My Girl,” now competing with a syrupy Musak version of “Uptown Girl” that leaked from the ceiling speakers.
That’s how calm life in Ironton had been for the past eight or nine months, Leonard thought. No terrorists blowing up buildings, or taking rifle shots at the local cops. No fascists trying to rewrite the city charter or rig elections.
Time, he thought, to concentrate on the anarchy of Tony’s vocal selections.
“Tony, my friend,” Leonard called out, “If you are going to sing the classics, please at least learn the words.”
“Everyone’s a critic. Ya want lunch there, Len?”
“Thank you. The usual, chicken salad on wheat, lettuce and tomato.”
“Want I should toss on some hot peppers, ya know, get you outta your comfort zone?”
“I’m comfortable where I am,” Leonard replied.
Tony returned to singing offkey, filling in the gaps with the clatter of a dish or two.
“Annie, could you deliver this to Mr. Consistency? Thanks, kid.” Tony yelled to Leonard. “Comin’ you’re way. Thrill a minute.”
Annie crossed the wooden floor with practiced stealth, her feet sliding rather than stepping and her arrival at Leonard’s side with a kiss to his forehead mildly startled him.
“Brought you an iced tea,” she said.
He smiled and said thanks as he inhaled her aroma, a mix of strawberry shampoo and cooking grease.
“Busy today,” he said, listening as two chairs were shifted. He imagined Annie draped across one chair with her feet resting on the arm of another. “Feet on the floor.”
“Ah,” Annie said as the chairs shifted. “Spooky how you know that. I know, I know, blind and all that. You need to teach me how.”
“I’d say you already know how. You get around rather quietly.”
“Speaking of feet,” she said in between sips of her soda, “Mine are killing me. It was super busy. If this keeps up, I’ll be able to afford my own place by Christmas.”
She laughed and Leonard listened as her voice chimed off the ceiling and the thick window glass. “And how will you get around town, Miss Fourteen-year old?”
“I’m only moving next door. Isn’t that why you remodeled the top floor of that warehouse into a fabulous loft, so me, your fabulous daughter, can lead my fabulous life in style?”
“I just rented it to a law office,” Leonard laughed. “Maybe they can rent you a couch.”
“You’d do that to moi? I wonder if Uncle Frank and Lauren have a spare room.”
The door behind Leonard rattled open.
“Hey, Uncle Frank. Leonard’s kicking me out. Can I crash at your place?”
Detective Frank Nagler closed the door and leaned against the frame with a dramatic sigh.
“That’s twice this month, aw, Leonard. Well, okay, Annie, but you’ll have to do chores, I mean Lauren and I are rather busy.” He yelled to Tony. “Got any coffee that was brewed today?”
“Wise guy,” Tony yelled back.
Nagler thumped into a seat at the table and cradled his head in his hands, wiped his hair back and grabbed Leonard’s hand while Annie reached for his other one.
“I already do chores,” she leaned in to Nagler and whispered. “Slave wages.” She rolled her eyes.
Tony arrived with a pot of coffee and a cup, which he filled.
Nagler inhaled half the cup and nodded thanks.
“You sound exhausted, Frank,” Leonard said.
“Sound?” Annie said, “You should see him. No offence, but you need a shower.”
“Yeah. Was on that search of the Dickerson reservation. Looking for a kid. Eighteen hours.”
“Did you find him?” Leonard asked.
Nagler shook his head. “Adding more searchers. He was ten, eleven, a foster kid.”
Annie flipped over her phone and began to type.
“Yeah, a couple guys mentioned that at breakfast.” She scrolled through the search results, then shrieked. She pointed the phone toward Nagler. “I know him, well, knew him. Oscar. He was no foster kid. He was at that same place Leonard and Calista got me out of. He probably escaped.”
Nagler glanced at Leonard, whose blank face said he was hiding information.
He turned to Annie.
“Why would he escape? I thought that place was a protective home.”
The girl stared at the table for a moment then flicked her eyes toward Leonard.
“Don’t look at him,” Nagler said.
“It was a bad place,” she began, “Run by…”
Leonard interrupted her. “I’m sorry we didn’t tell you all of it, Frank. You were occupied subduing the Dragony. We had meant to tell you all, but …” He shrugged.
“That was nine months ago,” Frank said. “Any time since…”
“I didn’t want them to tell you,” Annie said. “I didn’t want to make you sad again.”
“And you didn’t want to live through it again, right?” Nagler asked. What didn’t they tell me? He cupped one of her hands in his. “I know. But you all, including Calista, have to fill me in on the whole thing. Especially since we now have a missing kid.”
Annie offered a crooked grin, trying to lighten the mood. “Is this how you treat criminals, Uncle Frank?”
“You’re not a criminal, Annie. But you might be in danger. Tell me what you know about Oscar.”
The Frank Nagler Mysteries are: THE SWAMPS OF JERSEY; A GAME CALLED DEAD; THE WEIGHT OF LIVING; THE RED HAND.
Coming this call: DRAGONY RISING.
Catch up with the award-winning Frank Nagler Mysteries at:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/ (Search by book title)_