Emerging in book six of The Frank Nagler mysteries, NAGLER’S SECRET is the identity of a woman who has appeared as a redhead, in a couple of blurry snapshots, and might be a women in an undated Polaroid photo in which she stands next to Nagler.
Is she someone from his past? Or pretending to be?
Is she associated with the suspicious organization called Sunshine Farms? Or pretending to be? Or is someone making all this up?
Nagler seeking leads, takes the advice of street savant Irv Bernstein and examines old high school yearbooks for clues.
A top review for DRAGONY RISING: 5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally Well Written Book!A very well written and highly engaging book that sucked me in right away. The author masterfully crafted a fast paced and very realistic crime story. If you are into crime drama or mysteries, this book is a must! Well done…well done indeed!
Nagler shifted the magnifying glass over the yearbook photo. Had to be, back row, third from the end. Why there? She seemed to be nearly a foot shorter than the boy to her left and the girl to her right. Photographers usually placed all the short kids in the front row. Hiding? But standing out. Short, roughly cut hair, dark glasses, face in a scowl. He held the blurry photo of the girl as close to the yearbook photo as possible.
Shook his head. “Can’t be sure.” He read the names under the photo: Robert Phillips, Kathy Dennis. Two names, three faces. No Nancy Pollard. “How did she pull that off? Maybe just walked away.” He turned to the shuffle coming from the bedroom.
“It’s three a.m., Frank,” Lauren said. “And as intriguing as it is to find you drinking beer in the kitchen in your underwear, enough’s enough. You won’t catch her here, now. Catch her in the morning.”
“I know, but look,” He held out his hand.
She rolled her head on her neck. “What?”
He held out the magnifying glass. “Is that her?”
Lauren pulled the white cotton robe around her, and sighing, took the glass. “I’m…”
Nagler offered her the copy of the blurry photo and she swapped her glance back and forth.
“Jeez. Close. Maybe?”
“Then why’s her name not listed?”
Lauren placed the glass on the table and sat. “Crime of the century, there, Frank.”
He tapped a legal pad on the table. “There’s forty-three references to her in the five yearbooks. Volunteer student first aid, French Club, library aide, drama club, director of five plays, set designer, several lead roles. Front office assistant, and so on. But only one possible photo. Not even in crowd shots of the cafeteria. Not even by accident.”
“What are you saying?”
“No one is that busy and that unseen.”
Lauren leaned back and flashed her eyebrows in a puzzled empty stare. “When I was in high school the only people who did that many activities were trying to get into Princeton. Did you check school enrollment records?”
“Tomorrow, first thing. It gets worse?”
She grinned, a tired, three a.m. grin. “How?”
“She signed all these yearbooks to me, a couple times each. ‘Dear, Frank. Always remember the NYC trip.’ I never took a trip to New York. Couldn’t afford it. And, ‘I pointed to you in the third act. You were in the front row. Never forget it.’ No idea. Then, this one, ‘Thanks for the algebra help. Wouldn’t have passed without you.’”
Lauren laughed. “That proves she’s a fake. No one would ask you for help with math.”
“Then why’s this one bother me so much? ‘Au revoir, dear heart. Till I return.’”
“Well, she came back, right? Didn’t you two screw in the theater balcony?”
He wiped his hands over his head. “Yeah, someone came back. And yeah, the theater, maybe the scar, but she had a fake name and was gone soon after.”
“After she got what she wanted.”
“Is that how I screwed up?”
“Are you sure you did? You’ve been carrying things forever, Frank. Maybe for a while…” She crossed to his chair and sat on his lap, the robe open. “You never answered my question from the other night. What did you talk about?”
He wrapped an arm around her under the robe and kissed her hair. “Catch-up stuff. Parents were dead. Becoming a cop. Charlie Adams.”
“Why would she ask about him, a jailed serial killer? Did she ask about Martha?”
He leaned his head into hers. “No. Not one question.” “Clearly odd, if she had known you. First question, right?:
“But I don’t really know how much I would have talked about Martha.”
“But she would have asked. What else?”
“Sister Katherine. She asked about the battered women’s network. Said she had a friend who was trying to get out of a bad marriage.”
“Wasn’t that network supposed to be a secret? Hidden from public view for the safety of the women? The organizers are sworn to secrecy. They’ve gone to jail. Sister Katherine would have denied it existed. What did you tell her?”
He leaned his head back on his shoulders and yelled, “Fuck! That’s the oldest cop technique in the world. Throw out a leading question to get an answer. Become their friend. ‘So, Franky, the old nun, she runs the safe house? Must be important to her.’ And maybe the question comes back a couple times, and the details blur, a half a quart of Jack and a blowjob later, maybe it’s, ‘Yes.’”
Lauren stood and draping Nagler’s hand over her shoulder, dragged him toward the bedroom.
“Aw, Frank. Why are you afraid of this? I’ve never known you to be afraid of anything. Just how personal is all this?”
He caught up to her, pulled her close and kissed her neck. “About time to find out, huh?”
Lauren dropped the robe on a chair and slipped into bed. She turned off the bedside lamp. “Tomorrow,” she said as she settled into Nagler’ side. “No more Nancy Pollard tonight, okay? I have to meet with the bankers in the afternoon to find enough money to pay you guys.”
“So, I’m working for nothing?” She patted his cheek. “Tomorrow, Frank.”
“Okay.” He rubbed her bare back and listened as she exhaled one long I’m going to sleep now breath. “Hey, kid.” “What?” “Is that fake Frank website still operating?”
“Oh, man. Yes. We just never took it down.” She raised on one elbow. A slight grin. “Why?”
He kissed her and tugged her elbow away so she laid on her side. “Tomorrow.”