From New Nagler: ‘Romeo’s a-travelling to Mantua. Fetch him.’

Some scenes are hard to write. This was one.


“He walked. Past the old mills, past the stoops, past the troubles that weren’t his own; out of the light of downtown into the darkness of the worker’s ghetto, along the paths he had played on, had run along trailing Del Williams, shouting. Across the dividing line from the ghetto to the newer, brighter, nicer neighborhoods, the divide between torn pants and broken shoes, leaking roofs and dirt lawns and pale blue seersucker Sunday suits, iced tea on the patio and  green trimmed lawns lined with perfect flowers; from childhood to manhood; across that divide that had defined his entire life,  each step shedding the Chris Foleys, Charlie Adams, Bill Wallinskis of the world, the present woes cast upon Ironton like a curse; losing  the heat, the noise until there was only his shuffling steps along the broken sidewalks; walking till there was only Martha; turning, blindly taking a block at a time, surprised to find himself at their old school, then turning again past the bus stop, each house a marker deeper into his past, deeper into the days when he and Martha walked hand-in-hand, she shouting out hellos to all, he stumbling in an amazed and embarrassed joy that she was with him; stopping at corners, smiling into his astonished face, he wordless in crazy happiness, thrilled  as she wrinkled her freckled nose and brushed that red, red hair from her face; stunned at the lightness he felt, a lightness that even the cold shadow of the ghetto could not dampen; walked along the familiar  route from the school to her house, which then seemed to shine, but now resting before its dark ridge behind, was dark and hollow, especially the shaded windows of the second floor where they lived; walked now out of the light into a shade, feet leaden, a sensation that confused him because he wanted to hurry, to run to her side, but instead walked as if  he was leaning into a head wind.

Finally home, the street silent and blinking with fractured light of a broken street lamp, the ancient, damaged shed and red hand mark flashing in and out of sight; even here the writhing troubles of Ironton seethed.

His damaged shoulder sagged as he leaned to open the  heat-swollen front door, snapping off a creak that pried open the silence of the hallway.

The last few days had been bad for Martha, pain rising then ebbing, the heat drawing life from her body leaving it in soaking sheets. 

Yet, she smiled. Each morning. Each afternoon when he came home. And at night when the  weight of him slipping  into the bed woke her briefly, her eyes unfocused, then closing in pain.

“How’s my girl?” he asked softly as he kissed her; he dried her face with the clean cloth nearby.

He didn’t expect an answer. Sometimes her sleep was so deep and her breathing so shallow he leaned back startled, and expecting the worst, checked her pulse, only to breathe again when he detected one.

Her eyes popped open, then the right one closed.

“Catch the bastard yet?” A dry creaky voice.

The question drew a laugh from him. He kissed her. “No. Not yet.” Tears formed at the corners of  his eyes. “We will.”

“Hurry up, damn it. I want to be around to read about it in the paper.”

“Oh, Martha…”

“Frank, I dreamed of you. Of you and me.  Us playing, teasing, standing naked in the dark, your shining skin against mine, the salt of your sweat on my tongue…” She stopped, motionless. “I loved your hands on me, fingers probing, you inside, me licking you, all those dirty little things the priests told us not to do, the things that would condemn our souls…” Three or four short, ragged breaths. “It’s a wide world, Frank. And I followed you…”

He pulled himself in, chest collapsing, shoulder sagging, voice a hollow breath. “No, sweetie, Martha. No. I’m here.”

“I saw you clapping the day I graduated. Standing alone for so long, clapping and cheering, I could feel you.” A pause, she brushed her fingers across her lips. “You took me to the park and sprinkled rose petals on my belly. And they stuck to everything…” A coughing laugh. “And when you were done my tits were so hard and I was so wet. No one can use that park anymore, Frank. No more. Never.”


“You chased him away.  My dark companion. But he comes back and I have to push him off. You gave me that strength, to push him away.”

This time when she fell silent, her head rolled to one side and she seemed empty.

“Don’t go,” he wimpered, broken.

He wiped her face with the cloth again and she turned her head to him. “Don’t be scared. Look at me. Let me see your eyes. That’s my strength, Frank. Your eyes. Always.” Silence. Then a whisper. “Romeo’s a-travelling to Mantua. Fetch him.”

If you’d care to comment on  this sample, please drop  me a line at I’d love to hear your comments.

You might also like to read the three Frank Nagler Mysteries.  

The  Frank Nagler Mysteries are:




Available at:





An audiobook version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available at:

and itunes, and Amazon.


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New Nagler: Where he comes from

It’s what you do in a poor town, he learned. Have hope; everything else is darkness.


The Baker Hills section of Ironton was developed by one of the city’s rich bankers more than a century ago as a swanky neighborhood for the business owners and top managers of the city’s iron industry. The soft, greenlined roads featured fancy homes with turrets and wrap-around porches, landscaped, fenced yards, some with small gazebos, and a few with wrought-iron gates across their stone driveways. The neighborhood was on the west side of the city, set on rising hills planted with fragrant flowering trees and an entangled wall of tall Norway maples that had grown to block the view across the river of the black, belching mills and the workers ghetto where soot rained down like Hell’s mist.

 Nagler as a kid had wondered as he delivered newspapers to the homes protected by those tall maples why the rich folks didn’t want to see how they made their money.

Nothing bad ever happened in the Baker Hills.

That’s what Nagler was led to believe. As proof, he had always looked at the names of the streets there: Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, the Ivy leagues, as if living on streets with such names raised the aspirations of their children.

In truth, he had grown up believing, rather, having to believe, that nothing bad ever happened in Ironton, his hometown, at least nothing that could not be overcome. It’s what you do in a poor town, he learned. Have hope; everything else is darkness. The floods, the factory closings, the homeless living under the bridge, the permanent bend of his father’s back after work, then the thousand-yard stare when the mills closed.

Somehow Ironton survived, got up from the knock-down and trudged on, the limp a little more pronounced, the tear stains a little deeper on the dirty faces of hungry kids. He grew up believing that things would always be better. Martha Shannon, his true love since the third grade, was proof enough of  that: She hadn’t lived in the workers’ ghetto; she had led him out of it.

He had grown up on Fourth Street, a block over from Third, and two blocks from Sixth. They weren’t street names, just lines on a map — Street One, Street Two, Street Three; nothing poetic or inspirational, mere designations created because some city engineer had needed a way to make sense of the tangled mass of winding alleys, trails, and odd-sized lots that covered the east side of Ironton’s hills; nothing more.

What lived beyond the engineer’s solution were the informal names of alleys that reflected the immigrants, the Germans, Italians, Irish, Poles —  the whatevers — who, despite hard lives, filled the tiny homes with generations, spilled over the hillsides brawling and battling with life, dancing, joyously laughing and singing, trying to stand, then to be knocked down again, wishing the rays of sunlight were not so gray, and that the air didn’t taste like ash.

Nagler slipped the Impala off the state highway into Baker Hills and left the bright clutter of commerce behind; like a gate, silence descended and deepened as he drove beneath the smothering tunnel of shaded streets where the morning sunlight had yet to fully penetrate; a sterile silence, sound absorbed by sentinel homes, by the dense leafy overhang, more a setting, a stage, than a place.

Nagler maneuvered the clanking car cautiously over the scattered speed humps, as if unneeded speed would disturb the unnerving peace.

There is quiet, he thought as he searched for the turn to West Harvard and the Feldman home. There is quiet with movement and light. Then there is too quiet; this.



The  Frank Nagler Mysteries are:




Available at:





An audiobook version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available at:

and itunes, and Amazon.


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New Providence (NJ) Book Festival, set for Saturday

The second New Providence Book Festival has been scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22 at the grounds of the Salt Box Museum at 1350 Springfield Avenue in New Providence. The rain date is September 29th.

Scheduled  authors include J.R. Bale, Linda Barth, Michael Stephen Daigle, Reyna Favis, Vivian Fransen, Kristina Garlick, Laura Kaighn, Bob Mayers, Brian McKinley, Ginger Pate, Bill Powers, Linda Raedisch and Amy Reade.

In addition to book sales and signings, the authors will participate in a series of discussions.

Here’s the schedule:

10 a.m.: Ginger Pate, reading from her book, Would You Invite a Skunk to Your Wedding?

10:30 a.m.: Laura Kaighn, reading from her book, Rabbit’s Tale and Other Rites of Passage.

11 a.m.: Reyna Favis

“Search & Rescue Dogs and How It Led to a Supernatural Thriller.”
(A search & rescue demonstration will be included.)

12 p.m.: Amy M. Reade
“Location, Location, Location: Setting the Stage for an Exciting Novel.”

1 p.m.: Bob Mayers

Speaking on his recent book Revolutionary New Jersey.

2 p.m.: Authors Roundtable

Vivian Fransen (Moderating), Michael Stephen Daigle and Linda Raedisch will discuss their favorite books and writing experiences.

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9/11 memorial: The power of silence

A couple of years after 9/11, I was assigned by my Daily Record editor to write a piece for our annual Living Guide on Morris County’s 9/11 Memorial which had been built out in West Hanover Avenue, in the county complex.

It was fitting spot for the memorial. West Hanover was one of the many elevated spots in East and Central Jersey where people gathered on 9/11 to stare at the burning and empty Manhattan skyline.

It was an odd assignment, I thought, because the Living Guide was this collection of information about towns and school and events, and was a generally cheery compilation of stuff.

The 9/11 Memorial was not cheery at all, but was important enough to include.

The plan was to visit and speak with anyone who had stopped by to reflect on and remember that day.

I had a month to complete the assignment, and try as I might, in over a dozen  visits and drive-bys, I found no one to speak with; instead I wrote essentially a tone poem about  the meaning of the site.

Instead of finding people, I found their presence. Mementoes dropped and left with a small prayer. Coins, stones, memorial cards, photos, hand-written notes wrapped in plastic baggies, items that meant more to the person who left it, than to the visitor who saw the items.

The stone wall, surrounding the memorial which includes steel from the World Trade Centers, was covered by hundreds of small mementoes.

It was a clear day, that last day I visited the memorial before writing the story, the kind of day that anyone before 9/11 could have gazed eastward and seen the tops of the towers.

I wrote instead that “no one had to gaze anymore toward the horizon to see the towers because they were here.”

As powerful as the presence of the steel is, it is the small mementos that carry the greater weight.

It was, and remains, about the power of grief and silence.

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A sore shoulder, surgery and Frank Nagler

Well, found I need surgery on my left shoulder that has been bugging me since spring.

The real downside, of course, that is while I have one of those magical sports injuries – a torn rotator cuff – I won’t have the surgery in time to make a World Series roster. I will be ready for spring training, though.

Oh, wait, I’m a righty. So, I’m good.  Call me.

Why now, you might ask?

First, because it takes that long to actually admit that the pain in the shoulder that kept me up at night was not a passing fancy, or the result of an ill-advised twist while gardening.

I’ve had those pains before, those “walk ‘em off” ankle sprains, the knee bruise that is tender for a couple of days, even after the swelling has gone down, and the like.

I broke the little finger on my left hand while playing touch football in college. I didn’t notice it until someone after the game asked my why the finger was twice the size of all the others on that hand. Today, decades later, it rotates in an odd way.

We will not, however, get into the metaphysical or psychological meaning of pain, the avoidance  thereof, or the healing from.

We will, however, make note that after months of constant, numbing pain, I managed to dislocate the bad shoulder while cleaning the refrigerator: Popped it out of joint when my wet hand slipped off the edge of the doorframe and it whacked my shoulder at the perfect angle.

It popped back into joint after the first physical therapy session. And pardon me if the first thought I had when I heard the pop was of Martin Riggs from “Lethal Weapon.”

The other reason it takes this long, is that we all have to play the insurance protocol game, which in this case was a few weeks of medical guessing and hit-or-miss treatment, like a month of physical therapy that only made the  shoulder hurt more because all the stretching and strengthening in the world would not heal a muscle tear or bone spurs, which is what the MRI revealed.

Ah, the MRI, taken four months after I first saw a doctor about the pain. Four months while I thought that it might be possible that someone doctor type might want to know why it actually hurt, and maybe take a look. But then, they hear “shoulder pain” and categorize it, knowing it seems that after the insurance protocol we end up here.

That’s a lot of ice and Tylenol.

There are some upsides to this.

I get to practice my right-hand typing, since my left arm will be secured to my side by, I’m guessing, industrial strength strapping.

I get to avoid cleaning the refrigerator.

But, mostly, it gives me another injury to test out on my detective hero Frank Nagler.

In “The Weight of Living,” the third Nagler mystery, Frank was dealing with plantar fasciitis, so I loaded him up with a few of the real-life encounters, I had experienced when I suffered with the condition for several months – bad sidewalks, unwitting wrong steps that shot pain up my leg, just the plain ache after a long walk, and of course sterling advice from a doctor: Stay off your feet.

So, in the current WIP, the prequel to the whole series, I have had Frank get whacked about the head and shoulders by a kid using stick.  We’ll see what entails.

So, in the meantime I wait, knowing that if I push my chair back and turn to the left, my shoulder is going to scream at me.


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Elephants, the golfer and the compound: ‘The Weight of Living’

There was some dispute about George Dickinson’s ancestral claims, but Nagler didn’t care. He had lived in the area for eighty-five years and his family settled in these hills before the Revolution, whether it was the right Dickinson family or not. Besides, Nagler thought, how could you not like a man playing golf in a lime-green shirt, red knickers, a white hat and shoes and knee-high argyle socks?

Newspapers recently had a story about  the old Ringling compound  in Jefferson being put up for sale. The mansion is owned by a Catholic order, which now wants to sell it. The place  was once home to animals used in the  Ringling Brothers Circus before they shifted the  winter base to Florida. A segment of the old complex in now part of the Morris County golf course at Berkshire Valley. A note: I changed the name of the Dickerson family to Dickinson, just ‘cus.

In “The Weight of Living,” the third Frank Nagler book, I needed a remote location for a compound  owned by the family at the heart of the mystery and the old Ringling mansion  seemed like just the place to start.


This is the scene:

“You the cop?”

“Yup. You George Dickinson?”

“Be so.”

“Then we know who we are.”

“That’s a fact.”

George Dickinson claimed to be a distant relative of the old New Jersey governor on whose family’s land iron ore was discovered, boosting a centuries-long industry that put Ironton on the map. While the forges and mills filled Ironton’s sky with black smoke, miners cracked open holes in the ground in the northern hills to drag out the ore.

The forested hills were deeper and darker than Nagler recalled, as if the sunlight skipped over the tops or was absorbed by the dense forest. Nightfall would come early here, he thought. Steep-sided valleys carved by glacial water and ancient rivers split the hard-rock hills into segments that made up a mining district that ran to eastern Pennsylvania and produced iron ore, zinc, slate, coal, and limestone. He had read somewhere that the hills he had driven through had once been clear cut of all the trees as the need for wood outstripped Nature’s ability to replace it.

The narrow river valleys left no room for roads, so old Leni Lenape Indian paths that hugged the valley floors had first become trails for settlers, then wider paths for wagons, until finally a couple rail lines were cut for the mines.

That’s all gone now, Nagler had thought as he drove through the beautiful yet unsettling landscape; overgrown, collapsed on itself, the history of industry and struggle worn down through time; it was a closed-in and moody place, perfect, he decided, for the twisted visions of Remington Garrettson.

There’s probably nothing left of the old compound, he guessed, even if Lauren spotted a powerline. But after a couple weeks of poking into every vacant fallen-down shell of a building in the city, every empty home with windows of gray, soggy plywood and even some of the addresses attached by paperwork to the Mine Hill Foundation, there had been no evidence that Tank Garrettson and his buddies had been staying in any of them.

We’ve looked nearly everywhere else, so why not here?

There was some dispute about George Dickinson’s ancestral claims, but Nagler didn’t care. He had lived in the area for eighty-five years and his family settled in these hills before the Revolution, whether it was the right Dickinson family or not. Besides, Nagler thought, how could you not like a man playing golf in a lime-green shirt, red knickers, a white hat and shoes and knee-high argyle socks?

“I play every day since they turned that chemical dump into a golf course.” Dickinson winked at Nagler. “That was a pleasant change. But I had played here as a kid. There was a little course of water and I used the old sheds as a green.”

Nagler shaded his eyes from the sunlight with one hand.  The clear blue sky rose like a dome above the green valley.   I’m never ready for this stuff, he thought with irritation.   I never bring a hat and always leave my sunglasses in the car.

“Those walls the remains of the elephant sheds?” Nagler asked.  He nodded toward a stone framework with arches in the middle of one of the golf holes. A stand of medium-tall trees grew near the sheds; Nagler imagined the tree from which Sarah Lawton was hanged would have been taller.

“That’s it.  Can you imagine? Old Ringling had about a thousand acres for himself, built that mansion down the road that’s now owned by the church, and had lions, tigers, and elephants and what-all here. They used to drive the elephants down the valley road to the train stop. What a sight!”

“Can imagine.  Were there more trees near the sheds back then?  The land’s been worked.”

“I recall a stand of oaks, maples, and ash trees back then, but the chemicals probably killed them.  Lot of dead wood and soil was taken out of here to build the golf course. Why?”

“Just wondering. Beautiful spot. Can see why folks settled here. How many people lived up here?”

Before Dickinson could answer, the echo of a distant explosion rolled off the hills and across the golf course.

Nagler flinched. “What the hell was that?”

“Ha! That’s the arsenal. They develop weapons there and once in a while blow stuff up.  It kinda announces itself without warning,” Dickinson said, winking.

“Damn it. So how many people…” Nagler asked again.

“Few hundred, scattered.  The end of the mining cleared it out pretty much. When Ringling was here in the Twenties, there was the start of a lake settlement.  When old Remington lived here, weren’t many others. He managed to find the one flat spot of land up on the mountain, worked a stand of apple trees, and then by luck after a washout, found an iron vein right near the surface. There’s two versions. One, he worked it hard for a couple of years, set aside some reserves and fixed up the house and all; and the second, that he barely made a go of it. Truthfully it’s somewhere in between. Mind if I play through here? There’s a foursome three holes behind me. They let me play as long as I don’t hold up the paying customers.”

Nagler smiled. “Swing away.”

Dickinson settled the ball on a tee and pulled out a driver with a head the size of a grapefruit. Nagler recalled a line from Jimmy Dawson, who said in other sports the players took steroids, but in golf it was the equipment that grew.

Dickinson took a smooth swing and the ball jumped out maybe a hundred and fifty yards, driven less by the power of the swing than the size of the metal clubface.

Dickinson picked up the tee and walked on.  “You play?”

“No,” Nagler said, shaking his head.  “Bad feet, no time.”

Dickinson said, “That’s good, make ya crazy.”

“So where’s the old Garrettson place from here?” Nagler asked as Dickinson lined up another shot: He topped it and the ball bounced out about thirty feet.

“Maybe a mile south.  The old mining camps, where the real money was, were about three, four miles southwest of here over the mountain. His place is at the edge of the fields. No one looking to make real money would have opened that vein.”

“Anything left there?”

“Yeah, heard hikers say there are some buildings, roofs caved in, windows shot out.  There’s a hiking trail that heads up that way. It’s generally smooth since all the rocks have been picked out.”

“I heard there was something called ‘Garrett’s Way?’”

“It’s an old creek washout. He used it as a way to his place.  Heard he blocked it off half way up with blowdowns.”

Dickinson took another swing and with an iron drove the ball cleanly down the fairway.

“All I heard about Garrettson was that he was crazy. People would see him on the valley road with a shotgun yelling at something, probably God. They had learned to stay away. I mean, Detective, they weren’t stupid. The wife dies when there were three kids. Then there’s ten kids and no new wife? Just wasn’t anybody’s business. I guess.”

“Makes sense. Anyone been seen up there recently?” Nagler asked.

“Don’t think so. Wait, heard at the gas pump the other day that some skinny red-haired woman was seen there, maybe a week ago.”

Nagler turned away and stated into the green hills. Has to be Calista. What the hell?

“Haven’t heard of anyone else, or heard that she was seen again. Might have been a hiker. Hey, watch this.”

Dickinson set his ball on a tee and turned away from the center of the fairway.  “I could do this as a kid. Let’s see.”  He struck the ball hard and it sailed in an arc into the stone frame of the elephant sheds. “Ha!” he shouted.

Nagler just laughed at the old man’s joy. He shook his hand and walked back to his car.

“Any time you want to play, call me,” Dickinson yelled.


The Frank Nagler Mysteries are available at:






An audiobook version of “The Swamps of Jersey” is available at:

and itunes, and Amazon.


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Join me and other authors at events in September and October

I’ll be at some events in September and October.


Sept. 7 and 8: Belvidere (NJ) Victorian Days. This is a celebration of the Victorian Era in one of Warren County’s  delightful towns. Events include tours of local homes and cemeteries, horse and carriage rides, a farmer’s market, military  tributes, craft displays, muscle cars, music and an authors’ grove, featuring many local writers.

The festival is centered at Grant D. Wall Park, across from the Warren County Courthouse.

The authors’ grove is located along Third Street.


Event hours: Saturday, Sept. 8,  9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 9, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Sept 22: New Providence Book Festival, at the Salt Box Museum at 1350 Springfield Avenue, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This is the second annual festival. It will feature 12 writers in numerous genres, from local histories to children’s books, mysteries, paranormal and science fiction.

The event will feature readings and discussions, and book signings.


Oct. 13: Indie Author Day at the Margaret E. Heggen Library, 606 Delsea Drive, Sewell, NJ., from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The events will feature book sales and signings, and author panels.

I’ll be ready to discuss the award-winning Frank Nagler Mystery series, published by Imzadi Publishing, and other works.


“A Game Called Dead” was named a Runner-Up in the Shelf Unbound 2016 Best Indie Book contest.

“The Weight  of Living” was awarded First Place for mysteries  in the 2017 Royal Dragonfly Book Award contest;

Named A Notable 100 Book, Shelf Unbound 2018 Indie Book Awards;

Named a Distinguished Favorite, 2018  Independent Press Awards.

Kirkus Pro Page:


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You dance


To only that sound you can hear,

To the finger snap of yourself.

Dance to the taste of kisses sweet,

Not their absence;

Dance to the touch of fingers on skin,

To the light in your eyes.

Dance away the walls;

Dance till the scales fall

And your skin is as a fresh as the air;

Dance until  the tears are dry.

Dance to forget because the past can not be rewritten;

Dance to dream because the future is unknown.

Dance because you love.

Dance because you are.


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More new Nagler: Introducing Leonard

One of the heroes of the Frank Nagler Mystery series is Leonard, Detective Frank Nagler’s blind, bookstore owning friend. In the WIP prequel, Leonard is a street kid. After being rescued from a gang attack, Leonard comes to live at the Naglers’ home  and he becomes a companion for  Martha, Frank’s wife.

In this scene, Frank had asked Leonard for help identifying where the  gang hung out:

“Leonard insisted on walking.

“I was on the streets a long time, Frank.  I know the intersections by sound,” he said.

“But what about…”

“We’re at Bergen and Blackwell,” Leonard interrupted. “The train station is behind us to the right and the traffic light at the park is to the left.” He breathed deeply. “And if I’m right,  Marcella’s Bakery has cinnamon rolls in the oven.”

Nagler laughed, mostly at his own embarrassment. “How…?”

Leonard pointed to the left.  “They have an exhaust fan from the kitchen.” He dipped his head. “I could never stand at this corner long because of that smell, especially on the days that I had not eaten.”  He tapped the curb.  “Let’s move on.”

Leonard led Nagler nimbly down Blackwell and through several narrow alleys, stopping at broken doors that opened on musty, dark cellars, or at the back opening to empty mills. All places he had lived.

After the fourth or fifth stop, Nagler leaned on a doorframe and weakly asked, “How did you survive?”

Leonard tapped the stone steps with his cane. “We took care of each other, Frank. I’ve heard you speak of your friend Delvin and your concern for him.” He glanced up. “There’s a network, like in all societies, an underground pipeline for information.  We needed to stick together for safety and survival. But we mostly needed to protect ourselves from the gang Charlie Adams ran. Thieves and thugs.” He tapped the path and walked on. “Why do you need to find him?”

The question pulled Nagler from the sadness he felt.

“He may know something about our murder suspect,” Nagler said. “Maybe saw him somewhere.”

Leonard stopped and pointed toward a small brick  shed thirty yards away.

“That was their meeting point,” he said. “We’re behind that old car repair shop. They used to break in there.”

Nagler just shook his head and smiled. “How do you know this?”

Leonard smiled back. “I’d follow them, after they beat me up. In my mind I would charge into that shed and forcefully take my belongings back.” He laughed bitterly. “In my mind.” He sighed.  “Truth is I would trail their laughter and crude remarks. I learned they often failed to lock up the shed.  I’d wait and watch.”


“No one expects much from a blind boy, Frank. Worked to my advantage.”

“Did you get your stuff back?”

“Much of it,” Leonard replied, a hint of pride in his voice.  “What are you going to do now?”

Nagler scratched his arm, and then smiled. “Wait and watch, Leonard. Wait and watch.”

Back on Blackwell, Leonard stopped walking and turned to face Nagler.

“Martha’s dying, isn’t she, Frank, not just sick?” It was a soft question, delivered with reluctance.

Nagler felt the street spin and he leaned on a window frame for support, the strength escaping his legs.

The question. That question. Right in front of him, the whole time. Surely, Leonard was just concerned. Nagler felt his chest tighten, and he released a breathy sigh.

Leonard listened a moment. “I’m sorry, Frank. I can tell I upset you. I…I just see her at the house. I know she is in the bathroom staring at her face and pulling at her hair because she talks to it, like a friend who has betrayed her. It must have been so beautiful. Probably still is.” Then with sorrow: “I wouldn’t know. It brings me such sorrow and fear, Frank. I want to reach out to her, but what would I say?  I hear her crying and I think she gasps in pain at times. And she asks, ‘How will I tell Frank? A few more days, please?’”

Leonard heard Nagler’s coughing cry.


Nagler touched Leonard’s arm.  “Don’t apologize. You’ve been more comfort to Martha than I can be. I am grateful.” A deep breath, his voice stronger. “Yes, she’s dying. I just tell myself that it’s not true, not yet, even though I know it is. She deserves a long and wonderful life. She would open the world.”

He bowed his head and wiped his eyes.

“I’m trained as a cop to find answers. But for this, I have no answer. I don’t want it to be about me, my loss. I thought that after she got sick at nineteen and then got better, I knew how to handle it.”

His face collapsed, wet eyes closed; when they opened, he stared into the hollow future.

“But you don’t learn from it, Leonard, you can’t. We always want to be hopeful, pray for the sunny day. But, it’s a sneak attack every time. I try to imagine how the families of our murder victims handle the pain and loss, and I can’t. I can’t reach down that far.”

He released Leonard’s arm. A whisper: “I don’t know what to do.”  ”


The Frank Nagler Mysteries are available at:






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rising again

first knees, then to hands; pushing

then upright;

the weight of things shed.


such wreckage left;

kisses, touches, silence,

desertion, return, aching wonder;

drama, blame, wounded hearts,

cobbled love without instruction.





brushing away the ache,

hoping touch does not hurt

as it did before;

kicking off the last piece;

standing proud;


to discover your newly naked soul


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