The year of disease

The roses bloomed and died while I was gone,

Dozens, a wall of glorious crimson, grabbing light;

Bursting, then all at once browning, fading, but having lived.

Petals drifting to the cold soil, crushed, dry bones of rebirth.

We burst, rub together, then fade;

The pieces we leave behind embedded.

Lips formed to kiss, a surprise,

Your taste lingers, like time.

Eyes narrow and dark become brown and soft, startled, questioning.

The darkness peels away, silence become sound; a sigh.

Light cracks the gloom; your face.

Roses bloom and die and feed their resurrection.

Skin accepts the dew, becomes alive.

Bodies astride accept love.

Darkness opens to light

There is always light.

Always light.

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coming soon: ‘The Red Hand,’ A New Frank Nagler Mystery

So, it’s off the publisher after an editorial scrubbing.

“The Red Hand,” the latest Frank Nagler Mystery, is now in the final steps as my publisher Imzadi Publishing, readies the manuscript for release.

No publication date has been set, but it’s coming.

Thanks to Anita Dugan-Moore for the stunning cover, and Kathleen Tate for her careful copy edit. Kate, I’m sorry I can’t spell “gray” and keep inventing ways to mangle the English language.

“The Red Hand” is a prequel to the three other books in the series.

Why write a prequel?

Two reasons.

First, to answer questions about the life of Ironton, N.J. Detective Frank Nagler.

What is it like to be a new detective investigating a horrible series of deaths, labeled “an experiment in death,” by the medical examiner? How does Nagler become the soul of his hometown?

What happened to Nagler’s wife, Martha, whose memory haunts him in the series?

Why doesn’t Ironton, a once thriving manufacturing city, ever seem to turn the corner to prosperity?

These are all themes that are evident in the other three books in the series and will carried into the fifth one, now a work-in-progress.

The other reason is to add to the long story arc represented in the series.

Clues and hints to the origin, for example, of the political and financial morass that is Ironton are laid out. Also, deeper clues about how these issues will be resolved in the fifth book are dribbled throughout “The Red Hand.”

A note on style: The story will appear to have a certain herky-jerky quality. That was done to reflect several aspects to the cases: A lack of evidence, tension within the police department, and the one-step-forward, two-steps-back uncertainty of a rookie detective thrust into a murder spree beyond his imagination.

My thanks to the readers who have stuck with this series, and whose support is immeasurable.

I hope “The Red Hand” does not disappoint.

 

The previous Nagler Mysteries:

 

“The Swamps of Jersey” (2014) is about political corruption and murder.

The first Frank Nagler mystery. Available at Amazon, Nook, Kobo and Wal-Mart

Nagler is called out on stormy night to investigate the report of a dead woman in the Old Iron Bog. It is the first event in a chain of events that set the hard-luck city of Ironton, N.J. on edge. Besides the possible murder, the city was flooded when a week-long storm settled in and wrecked homes, businesses, and streets, and Nagler is trying to make sense of a series of letters that claim to expose theft of city funds, except they are so incomplete he wonders if it is really so.

Then there is Lauren Fox, a woman sent to Ironton to jump-start economic development. She and Nagler are attracted to one another and begin to become serious when she leaves town without an explanation. Nagler was an emotional recluse following the death of his wife years before. They had been childhood sweethearts, and her death crushed Nagler.

 

The story of Frank Nagler picks up two years after “Swamps”  in “A Game Called Dead” (2016)

A GAME CALLED DEAD was named a Runner-Up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Book Contest.

Ironton, N.J., is still a city struggling with its economic and rebuilding troubles, but new heroes emerge. Meanwhile a break-in at the local college leaves two women badly beaten, and one later dies. Following a series of criminal acts in the city, including several that damage the book store owned by Leonard, Nagler’s friend, the story takes on a sinister twist.  The title comes from the students’ name for a video game that has taken on a real-world life. They call it “A Game Called Dead.”

The story is tense and propulsive.

 

“The Weight of Living” (2017) brings Frank Nagler face-to-face with a soulless, manipulative killer whose crimes stretch back decades.

THE WEIGHT OF LIVING IS A MULTIPLE AWARD WINNER:

2017: First Place in the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards

2018: Named a Notable 100 Book in the Shelf Unbound Indie Book Contest

2018: Named a Distinguished Favorite in the Independent Press Awards contest.

2018: Named a Distinguished Favorite in the Big NYC Book Contest.

 

A young girl is found in a grocery store Dumpster on a cold March night wearing just shorts and a tank top. She does not speak to either Detective Frank Nagler, the social worker called to the scene, or later to a nun, who is an old friend of Nagler’s.

What appears to be a routine search for the girl’s family turns into a generational hell that drags Nagler into an examination of a decades old death of a young girl, and the multi-state crime enterprise of the shadow ringmaster.

The deeper Nagler looks, the more he and his companions are endangered, until the shocking climax that leaves Nagler questioning his actions to both solve the crimes and heal his damaged soul.

The story is entangled, deeply involving and holds an emotional grip.

 

The Nagler Mysteries are available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

The first three books in the series were issued in an anthology edition in 2018. It is available from the sires above in hardcover, paperback and ebook formats. (A handy way to catch up).

An audiobook version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available on audible.com and Amazon.

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking upright while bent over

The last thing I said to the surgical nurse was that I would be very unhappy if I awoke missing my left arm and still having a left kidney.

That was said in response to the purple mark on my left arm placed there by the surgeon to ensure the procedure they performed was on my left side.

She’d heard that line before.

I still have my left arm.

And remnants of the purple mark.

Major surgeries are an exercise in being alive while being dead; the post-operative hospital stay is as much about being dragged back to life as it is about physical healing.

I had brought two books with me, Richard Ford’s “The Sportswriter,” and “The Milkman,” by Anna Burns.

But my brain would not accept the elegant phrases and detailed human observations of either author. It was as if it had erected a wall around itself as protection. Instead I watched home improvement shows or conspiracy based investigations on cable whose information acted as a battering ram to crush the wall; I was not ready to absorb great prose, but was able to fend off bullshit.

It’s a process and it moves at its own pace.

Now home after the May 23 surgery to remove a diseased kidney, I learn to sit and stand as ramrod straight as possible because the torque of turning and bending causes pain. Those actions are the essence of the old Henny Youngman joke: Doc, it hurts when I do this. Well, don’t do that.

Or as the surgeon who cleaned out my shoulder last October told me at the last visit: My job now is to not screw it up.

So, here I sit, trying not to screw it up.

Aiding in this recovery in her own special way is Lily the Missile Dog, the 6-months-old, 17-pound terror, whose efforts to deliver dog sympathy come in to play only after a launched airborne attack from 15 feet way with a running start. Sometimes I can get the pillow over my stitches in time.

I spend time thinking about my hospital roomie, Fred. He was in his mid-80s dealing with a couple of ailments, including what I could gather was something serious with his spine that left him bed-ridden and bent at the waist in those times he passed by my bed on his way to physical therapy. There were a lot of questions about whether he was wearing his back brace.

We didn’t get a lot of time to chat in those two days — both of us were in and out of different levels of consciousness. But I did hear him tell the nurses that I had it worse than he did: “Did you see my roomie? They ripped out his kidney.”

I also heard him awaken three times in one night after having an accident. The cry of pain, helplessness and embarrassment was heartbreaking.

But mostly I eavesdropped on Fred and his wife talking with pride to his grandson, who has just got a job at the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., horse track with the promise of a full-time post, or the phone chats with a daughter visiting New Orleans for the first time, or tracking his investments.

Life and family pride go on, hospital bed or not.

But mostly I think about Fred because even as he moved slowly with a walker and an attendant nurse, bent 90 degrees at his waist, he carried himself as a man with a future.

He walked, as it were, upright while bent over.

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The evolution of the Frank Nagler Mysteries: A couple samples from early versions.

The Frank Nagler Mystery series began with a small police blog item in a newspaper years ago.

Soon, I began to write a series of short sketches to build out the story. I must have written four or five, each one adding depth to the original story of a break-in and unknown thief.

Recently my older brother send a package of stuff to his son, and in that pack were two forgotten entries to that list.

I hadn’t seen them in years, but they provided a curious look into how the series took shape.

For the uninitiated, the Frank Nagler Mysteries tell the story of the investigations of Ironton, N.J. Detective Frank Nagler. They tell a dystopian tale of the city, fallen on hard economic times, beset by crooked politicians, battered by weather and years of stagnation. Hope dies and crime breeds.

And Nagler persists, carrying the weight of grief for his wife and his city.

In these early versions, Nagler did not exist, but I was surprised to find, the kernel of the decline of the city was greatly evident.

The character who is present is Charlie Adams, who readers know becomes a serial killer.

What’s interesting is the writing. These were composed when I was in my 20s. They are a mish-mash of dreamy thematic descriptions and some not-bad character set ups.

A couple samples:

“And how when the river slides along the docks, cool green water, mixing the Chenango and the Susquehanna, how as they merge there is one audible creak, one small twinge of pain, one small whisper that time has come. And why in the gathering of winds do the rattles of loose shutters or the grinding of a broken cornice fill the personless air? Why is it through decay we reason rebirth?”

(Okay, that was painful.)

A later version:

“The heavy truck lurches to a stop, its load shifting a bit. The engine puffed like a tired ox, long in the yolk. At first the trucks arrived singly, days a part. They would thunder during the day, their loads of red beams shining in the hot summer sun. And at night they would leave almost without a sound…..

…The light changed to green…In two years the new college would be standing. Behind him, framed by his rearview mirrors, the driver could see reflected the old city standing gray and smoky in a late afternoon sun. (Somewhat better.)

And then Charlie Adams: “Yet something great was at war with his physical being. His hands worked fiercely at his hat, his breathing came in deep, strong pulls, slow and deep, then faster and shorter. Suddenly he leaped at the table. “Goddamn all of them! Damn everyone!” His bellow rattled through the empty building. His mind exploded as never before. “All the time laughin’ and pointin. Someday I’m gonna go out and smash someone or something and no one is gonna laugh anymore. Someday they’ll say, ‘yeah, that’s the guy. Yeah, he’s the guy.’ “

What’s important about this version of Charlie Adams is that he embodies the clash that fills the entire series: The clash between the haves and the have-nots. Much of this characterization gets transferred to Frank Nagler as he fights for his city and his life. Charlie over time becomes a megalomaniacal killer, but one who knows where he came from – the wrong side of the tracks – and it fuels his rage.

 

 

My interview on The Author’s Show that discusses the series and the last award-winning entry, “The Weight of Living,” is playing continuously for three days. from April 17 to 19. See the accompanying and for details.

Link: https://wnbnetworkwest.com/WnbAuthorsShow3.html?fbclid=IwAR0zHjdLh62XomD8Cjo63SzuoCMognhi-dvKIDcE9I5Ab-ITZ2Egr3wo59o

The Frank Nagler books are available online at Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.

 

Look for the new book in the series, “The Red Hand,” coming soon.

 

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hackettstown Public Library, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, Sally Ember, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello cancer, my old friend (Apologies to Paul Simon)

And it makes me so terribly sad for those families for whom the diagnosis is much worse. And for those who have lived through a family member or friend dying of the other types of cancer, aggressive, relentless killers, or dementia and Alzheimer’s, or any other condition that steals a life.

This is a weird place to be.

And I don’t mention it because I want to scare anyone, but because it is a weird place to be.

I’m going to have a kidney removed in late June because it contains what appears to be a tumor that for all odds is cancer. They won’t know for sure until the tumor is removed and biopsied, but as I’ve told relatives, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck.

That’s the really horrible news. And a month after being told, it is still horrible news.

But then, turns out, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

A month ago I passed a kidney stone. During the follow-up to ensure that the stone had passed, an ultra sound exam picked up what was called a “renal mass.”

Three weeks of tests later — I’ve had so many CT scans, I could rent myself out as a night light – it was determined that the mass was a roughly 2-inch tumor in my left kidney.

It has been there for 10 years, when a scan found a tiny spot, but whoever did the scan was not looking for a spot on my kidney, but for something else I have forgotten about.

It took 10 years for it to grow enough to be noticed for what it actually is, a tumor.

Researching the disease, and discussions with the doctor, reveal that kidney cancer is a somewhat odd thing in the cancer world. Sometimes it involves other organs and tissues, and grows aggressively, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Mine didn’t.

It is wholly contained inside the kidney, so removal of the kidney will remove the tumor, the doctor said.

There is no involvement of any muscle or fat tissues, or any other organ. This type of kidney cancer spreads first to the lungs, and a test last week showed it has not spread.

It was clear that Dr. Lai was relieved to tell me that.

Granted nothing in the medical world is guaranteed, so even after I lose my kidney, they will test for cancer in the area vacated by the kidney.

That’s why this is weird.

I kept my foot on the brake when the light turned green and the tractor trailer that ran the red light didn’t broadside me. The falling tree landed in the other direction.

I got lucky. It seems.

And it makes me so terribly sad for those families for whom the diagnosis is much worse. And for those who have lived through a family member or friend dying of the other types of cancer, aggressive, relentless killers, or dementia and Alzheimer’s, or any other condition that steals a life.

I suppose I should be running around hair on fire,

But I’m not. And I wouldn’t be if the diagnosis was worse. No buckets lists, no righting of wrongs, no apologies for the jerk I might have been.

Life is about ups and downs, success and failure, great joy and disappointments, loss, remembrance and happiness, usually all at the same time.

This is not acceptance or giving up.

This is – and we all do this daily by living — raging against the dying light, not by complaining about fate, but by living, doing and being.

The last song that was playing on the truck radio the other day was Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good.”

And it has been.

That’s why I’ve been lucky.

We’ll see what happens.

 

 

Posted in Fiction | 6 Comments

Reading and discussion 1 p.m., May 11 at Independence library

I will be at the Independence branch of the Warren County Library at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 11 for a reading and discussion about the Frank Nagler Mysteries and other writing topics, including the new book in the series, “The Red Hand.”

Thanks to director Lorraine Bloom for the invitation and the effort to set up the session.

I spoke at this library last year and had a wonderful time. The room was not booked for another event that afternoon so our session ran long as library visitors dropped in and stayed for a while.

I’m looking forward to another interesting, fun event.

The library is located at 40 Route 46, just north of Hackettstown.

Independent residents are blessed to be the home of an active public library.

I’m looking forward to meeting more of you on May 11.

 

 

In other news, my interview on The Author’s Show will repeat all day, May 8.

It is a wide-ranging discussion about my writing career, including my career as a journalist, and the genesis of the Frank Nagler books.

 

The Nagler books are available in ebook and paperback at:

https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/e/B00P5WBOQC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1548863995&sr=1-1

 

An anthology edition, containing  all three Nagler books and a bonus short story, “Who Shot the Smart Guy  at the Blackboard?”  is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover at:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Frank+Nagler+Mysteries%3A+An+Anthology

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-nagler-mysteries-michael-stephen-daigle/1129938809?ean=9781944653125

An audio version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available at: https://www.amazon.com/The-Swamps-of-Jersey/dp/B07BT8WHM3/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not this time

There is still time to tell of this.

With time later to gather the paper and ink and envelopes and stamps, the formalities of the end. Because, in time, they must be gathered.

Not this time.

There will be time to study the darkness descending.

The beast will slink back to the gloom, watery eyes hungry for me, it’s gangrenous teeth awaiting my bones.

It will not have them yet. There is a scar of near miss.

The beast can wait; all paths lead to its lair.

It knows it has the luxury of time we do not.

Time for now will be measured by the taste of you on my tongue, the drift of a rose on your pebbled skin, by the wind and new flowers and rain, by bees hunting for dew, by arms outstretched gathering sun and sound and joy and the mystery of all that is and was.

Time will not be measured by sorrow.

Not now.

Not this time.

Time now is measured by being.

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Leave a comment

New 5-star review for ‘The Weight of Living’

New 5-star Goodreads review of “The Weight of Living:” “What a great read! A complex plot in a gloomy setting with characters honed to perfection. Detective Frank Nagler is one of those characters that could be real; intuitive, dedicated, but with baggage and a soft spot. My kind of guy. I’m not usually drawn into a story like I was this one. I finished the book in record time.” Thanks, Marc Cullison.

Also, The Author’s Show will repeat my interview for 24 hours starting at midnight Monday, April 22.:

The Link https://wnbnetworkwest.com/WnbAuthorsShow3.html?fbclid=IwAR0zHjdLh62XomD8Cjo63SzuoCMognhi-dvKIDcE9I5Ab-ITZ2Egr3wo59o

The Nagler books are available in ebook and paperback at:

https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/e/B00P5WBOQC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1548863995&sr=1-1

 

An anthology edition, containing  all three Nagler books and a bonus short story, “Who Shot the Smart Guy  at the Blackboard?”  is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover at:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Frank+Nagler+Mysteries%3A+An+Anthology

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-nagler-mysteries-michael-stephen-daigle/1129938809?ean=9781944653125

 

An audio version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available at: https://www.amazon.com/The-Swamps-of-Jersey/dp/B07BT8WHM3/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A new 5-star review for ‘The Swamps of Jersey’

A 5-star review for “The Swamps of Jersey” Thank you Arthur.

 

Arthur W. Turfa

 

5.0 out of 5 starsRealistic, well-written mystery

“Michael Daigle combines his experience as a journalist with impressive fiction-writing skills to craft something that could have come out of the headlines. The concept of place has always intrigued me. In this tale of a once-prosperous New Jersey city that battles natural and human-made disasters, he places realistic characters in this murder mystery. Seemingly unrelated events and clues actually fit together, and Detective Frank Nagler tries to make sense of it all.
The author’s style is crisp and exciting. I want to read more, and heartily recommend Michael Daigle to anyone!”

The beginning: Scene One of “The Swamps of Jersey:”

“The ringing phone grabbed Detective Frank Nagler from the fitful sleep he had found crammed into an office chair like a discarded suit jacket. It was three a.m.

The phone rang again, buzzing like a swarm of flies. He rolled dizzily sideways, slammed his feet to the floor and sat in the chair, feeling his back clench. Crap, that hurt. The phone rang again. And again. He rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands and waited for one more ring, then picked up the receiver. “You’re kidding,” he replied wearily to the dispatcher’s request. “What’s next, locusts? Yeah, never mind. Thanks. Just what we need after all this. Be there soon.”

He wrapped himself in his long black raincoat that had become his shield against the wet and raging world, and leaned into the outer door as the hurricane winds slapped him awake.

He had not seen the sky for days, felt the heat of the sun, wore dry shoes or walked outside without that raincoat since the storm blew in and sealed the hills above the city with a dense smothering grayness, a swirling menace of thunder clouds and shrieking winds that pounded the city with an apocalyptic rain that sent the Baptist preachers howling to the hills about sin and damnation. It emptied the grocery store shelves of everything but a few cans of cream of mushroom soup, and locked the residents in the top floors of their homes as the river crashed its banks, flooded streets and rearranged the city landscape like a madman with an earth mover.

The placid, blue August sky had been replaced by rain that came and stayed. Rain with menace, rain that pulsed around corners dark with dislodged pieces of the earth as it ripped away every weak thing it could; rain that claimed, rain soulless and dark as evil; that challenged knowledge; rain that took possession.

The ancients knew what to do with rain like this, he thought wickedly, squinting into the horizontal blast of water.

Conjure an honest man with a ship and spin a parable about the wages of sin. Nagler laughed sourly. And then get out of town.

Nagler plowed his car through the treacherous bumper-deep water that filled the downtown streets. Random spotlights, swinging loosely from dangling wires on damaged poles or hanging off ripped roof tops banged with the hollow, doomed echo of cathedral bells at the end of times and flashed a shifting and sinister light on flooded parking lots or intersections rippling with dark water. Store after store was dark, some with boards covering glass windows; others had jagged shards of glass that gleamed menacingly in the fractured light, hanging in dented window frames.”

 

Published by Imzadi Publishing, Tulsa, OK. Cover by Anita Dugan-Moore.

The Nagler books are available in ebook and paperback at:

https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/e/B00P5WBOQC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1548863995&sr=1-1

 

An anthology edition, containing  all three Nagler books and a bonus short story, “Who Shot the Smart Guy  at the Blackboard?”  is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover at:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Frank+Nagler+Mysteries%3A+An+Anthology

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-nagler-mysteries-michael-stephen-daigle/1129938809?ean=9781944653125

 

An audio version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available at: https://www.amazon.com/The-Swamps-of-Jersey/dp/B07BT8WHM3/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Posted in BooksNJ2017, Fiction, Greater Lehigh Valley Writer's Group, Hot in Hunterdon; Georjean Trinkle, http://www.sallyember.com, Imzadi Publishing LLC, Michael Stephen Daigle, Mystery Writers of America, www.michaelstephendaigle.com | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A sample from WIP ‘Mount Jensen:’ Cooking class, a three-ooff omelet

A knife load of butter, three fingers of chopped onion, a fistful of sliced potatoes, turned twice, and then pushed to the edge of the grill, away from the main heat.

Four pieces of toast, six fried eggs sunny-side-up arranged like a cyclops board meeting. Ham at the side, bacon across the front; toast popped, buttered, eggs over, a wave of garlic and onion powders, then a splash of parsley flakes. Two plates, a couple scoops , Henderson pirouetted and Hank the plumber and Eugene had their breakfasts, ham for Eugene, bacon for Hank.

“You might see some extra trade this week,” Hank said, his mouth full. “Folks down the road at the new place gonna be shut up for a few days while I replace most of their plumbing, the hot water heater and a furnace. I told them when they moved in two years ago that all them systems was set to fail and they should try to replace one piece at a time to avoid the disruption.” He shook his head is disgust. “Big city New Yorkers. Didn’t want to hear it from some backwoods plumber. But the plumbing goes back to when old man Megan ran a machine shop outta there. He just patched the leaks. There’s three water heaters stacked down there and the furnace is probably forty years old. Amazed it worked at all.” He piled in another load of eggs and washed it down with coffee.

“And what were you doing down in their cellar to start with?” Eugene asked, knowing the answer. “Wasn’t because you’re the town’s plumbing inspector, was it?”

Hank laughed. “Well, of course it was. But that didn’t make them fixtures any better.”

Henderson absorbed the news with a curious, wrinkled face. Since Bagels & Brews opened two years ago, his business had actually increased. A couple dozen more cars in Mount Jensen every day was good for everyone, he figured.

Still, he thought, maybe I’ll have Dan Wilson drop off a load of bagels, just in case.

“That’ll cost ‘em,” he replied to Hank.

“I ain’t complaining,” Hank smiled back. “The plumber comes for us all.”

“Who comes for the plumber?” Eugene asked, grinning.

“The man in black,” Tender whispered from the corner. Which just took the humor right out of the air.

“Thanks for cheering us up, there Tender,” Henderson said shaking his head.

“Just the truth,” Tender replied.

“What’s the man in black need?” Henderson asked.

“More coffee,” Tender said. “And a side of toast.”

Hank swiped the last of the egg yolk off his plate with a crust of toast, and nodded.

“You know, Henderson, they’re giving cooking classes down there.”

Eugene slapped Hank’s back. “Well, you’re just full of news today, ain’t ya?”

“Just saying. It’s mostly stuff on their dinner menu. Baked bass with a wine sauce, lemon poached trout with leeks and capers, bunch of fancy sauces.”

Henderson laughed. “What am I supposed to teach? Greasy homefries by the bucket? Cheeseburger specials?” He winked at Eugene.

Hank blushed and stammered. “Omelets. Country omelets.”

Henderson grinned. “Okay.” He reached for stainless bowl. There was a little egg yolk on the edge. He wiped it off with his apron.

“Consider the egg. Or as the French say, an ooff.”

“I think that’s urf, o-e-u-f,” Tender interrupted.

“How do you get urf out of o-e-u-f, there Tender? No ‘r” so it’s ooff. More than one are ooffs. We’ll use three ooffs for our omelet.”

He held out the bowl and cracked an egg one handed on the lip.

“Ain’t you supposed’ta crack ‘em on a flat surface?” Tender asked.

Henderson sighed. “Not if that flat surface is dirtier than the edge of the bowl,” he growled, grinning. “That’s what cooking’s for. So, three ooffs, a little salt and pepper, whisk vigorously,” — he did so with wide eyes and a crazy grin – “slab of butter on the grill, pour on the ooffs, add ham, onion and peppers, cheese if you have a mind. Flip and roll. Voila, a three-ooff omelet. Serve with toast.”

The men at the counter applauded.

“Thank you, thank you,” Henderson bowed and spread his arms in mock tribute.

Hank chimed in. “What if I want a heart-healthy omelet?”

“Eat oatmeal,” Eugene replied.

“You want a heart-healthy omelet?” Henderson asked. “That’s egg whites, air with a little color, Merage without the sugar, the caramelization and the lemon filling. There ain’t enough stuff in the kitchen to make egg whites taste like food.”

Work called, and the diner emptied, all but Tender.

“You could be a good cook, if you wanted to,” he said, voice like a ghost.

Henderson smiled, then sighed. “Maybe.” To himself: Did I give up that idea? He settled into the silence with a cup of coffee.

The door bell chimed. Henderson glanced up and recognized the way-too-yellow blazer and smiling round, Boy Scout face of the real estate agent whose face was attached to the door hanger left on the diner’s entrance. Dan Coates. Golden Mile Realty.

“Still serving?” Dan Coates asked.

Henderson finished his coffee and wiped the counter. “Sure. What’d ya have in mind?”

Dan Coates removed the too-yellow jacket and draped it over an open space on the counter, unbuttoned his cuffs and rolled up each sleeve with exquisite care, each roll precise so that it did not wrinkle the linen shirt. His short brown hair didn’t move.

Then he sat. If he noticed the still messy grill and pile of pans on the side of the stove, he said nothing.

“Could you make eggs benedict, with a green tea?”

“I got Earl Grey. I don’t have a lot of tea drinkers as regulars,” Henderson replied, placing a napkin, knife spoon and fork in front of Dan Coates. He placed a tea cup and saucer, a tea bag and a pot of hot water on the counter. Tender was unsure when he had last seen a pot of tea water at Henderson’s diner; tea was usually served with a cup of hot water and a maybe a napkin and Henderson would toss the tea bag to the customer. But there was a game here, he understood. He had seen Dan Coates’ door hanger declaring, “I have many interested buyers for your property!!” Property in Mount Jensen moved slowly; families stayed. The last sale of any consequence was Megan’s old shop that became the new diner, and that was three years ago. Before that it could have been eight or nine years, maybe the Schmidt’s farm on West Hill Road, Tender guessed.

“I have to make the hollandaise,” Henderson said. “Be a couple of minutes.”

He pulled out a square baking pan and filled it with water, lit a fire under it and placed two small glass bowls in the water for a bain marie. He put an English muffin in the toaster and slipped four thin slices of ham on the grill. “Local ham okay?” Dan Coates nodded and sipped his tea.

Henderson then pulled out three eggs, separated the yolks, split a lemon and placed a few ounces of water in a stainless pot and set it to boil. With the bain marie boiling he dropped the flame and placed an egg in each bowl.

He combined the water, egg yolks, lemon juice and some butter and slowly whipped the sauce, then placed it in the bain marie, Muffins buttered, then ham, the perfectly poached eggs, then the sauce, golden and warm.

He presented the meal to Dan Coates. “Eggs benedict. More water for your tea?”

Dan Coates smiled and said, “Thank you, please.” He cut into the eggs and the yolks spilled out over the ham and the muffin. Perfect, Henderson thought.

“Seem pretty interested in Mount Jenson,” Tender said as he raised an eyebrow to Henderson. “Usually pretty slow here.”

Between bites, Dan Coates, said, “Interest is picking up. This is excellent, the sauce sublime,” he nodded to his eggs. “Bank rates are low, buyers looking to invest, retire. And lake front property? Great combination.”

Henderson asked. “How eager are these buyers?”

Dan Coates sensed the probing tension. Small towners, protective of their little lots and homes. “They have reserve of cash. They are ready to move.”

He finished his breakfast and stood. He dropped a twenty on the counter. Flatly:  “Keep it.” Then he slipped his arms into his too-yellow jacket, smiled and walked to the door. “Oh, who owns that old hotel. Great place to start. I see condos.”

Henderson coughed out a smile. “No one knows. Been vacant for years. Do you always ask questions that you know the answers to?”

Dan Coates paused half in his jacket, his soft face bright red.

“You seem to know something about that place,” Henderson said.

Dan Coates’ face lost the cuteness. “I’m in real estate. I try to stay ahead of the completion.” He turned.

“Hey, Mr. Coates,” Tender called out. “Your buyers local?”

Dan Coates’ lips formed a thin, dark smile. “They have interest, and they have money. That’s all I need to know. Thank you, gentlemen.”

Henderson watched Dan Coates open the door to his black Mercedes, nod once, slip behind the wheel and pull out, kicking up dust.

Henderson shook his head, pocketed the twenty and removed the dishes. He glanced at Tender. “Oswald told me that someone has been at the county tax office poking around the old Jensen properties. Think we just saw the snooper.”

He scooped up a fingerful of the hollandaise. Not bad, he thought.

 

Please consider the Frank Nagler Mysteries:

Reviewer: “I highly recommend this read and the full series. Kudos to the author.” 

 

The Nagler books are available in ebook and paperback at:

https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Stephen-Daigle/e/B00P5WBOQC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1548863995&sr=1-1

 

An anthology edition, containing  all three Nagler books and a bonus short story, “Who Shot the Smart Guy  at the Blackboard?”  is available in ebook, paperback and hardcover at:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Frank+Nagler+Mysteries%3A+An+Anthology

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-nagler-mysteries-michael-stephen-daigle/1129938809?ean=9781944653125

 

An audio version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available at: https://www.amazon.com/The-Swamps-of-Jersey/dp/B07BT8WHM3/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

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