Wednesday 31 January 2024

The Alphabet Murders by Maxine Flam, red wine

Bill Kelby and Joe Miller of the Major Case Squad showed up on the scene after they were told there was a dead body in the Penthouse Suite of the Diamond Hotel located on 6th and Broadway. Downtown had some expensive places to stay but it wasn’t far from Skid Row and the riff-raff that existed there. Could the two be related?

“So who found the body?” asked Kelby to the officers on scene.

“The maid when she was bringing up fresh towels to the room as requested on the phone.”

“Well, he didn’t request them,” replied Miller sarcastically. “He’s been dead more than two hours. Rigor has already set in.”

“Who called?” asked Kelby to the Housekeeping Manager.

“A woman, we didn’t ask her name. She said she needed a set of towels sent up so…we brought them up.”

“You sure it was a woman?” inquired Miller.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“How many people were registered to the room?” said Miller to the Front Desk Manager.

“One… a businessman…named Frank Dirken.”

“So, Mr. Dirken had some company tonight,” stated Kelby caustically.

“Anybody know how he died? Come on…a little speculation here. No knife, no gun, he wasn’t strangled. Overdose? Doubtful. A heart attack? What about natural causes?” ranted Miller. “Wait, check this out. Looks like Mr. Dirken had a heart condition but his digitalis medication is empty. Maybe someone spiked his drink?” Miller bagged the bottle.

“Maybe it’s someone who Mr. Dirken wasn’t supposed to be with?” said Kelby as he looked at Miller. “He had company and depending on if he’s married, the company left to avoid embarrassment, but… what if the company gave him the overdose of heart medicine?”

“What if the company was a professional call girl and he’s married? That could create problems. Hey Bill, remember last week, we had a case where a rich guy was found dead in his office late at night and it was ruled inconclusive due to him ingesting too much digitalis. He had a heart condition. Now we have another case of another rich guy with a heart problem. You think these two are related?” Miller started to pace.

            “The autopsy showed he recently had sex too. We thought he gave himself his own happy ending there but maybe he had a visit from a professional also. He died in a high rise office late at night. No one was in, not even the cleaning crew. Estimated time of death was 11 pm but the body wasn’t found until 7 the next morning when his secretary came in and found him sprawled out on the floor, with a bourbon glass near by.” Kelby looks at Miller with fear in his eyes. “Not another serial killer.”

The guy with a split personality disorder who killed people he picked up in bars, nightclubs, and discos was more than enough to last a lifetime.

            “There was a single bourbon glass,” stated Miller still pacing the room.

            “So he was a cheap so-and-so and didn’t offer his company a drink.”

            “I’m not sure the two are related,” replied Miller cautiously.

            “Man, Joe, I hope not. Then what we have is the possibility that a high class call girl is killing her Johns. She has sex with her rich businessmen clientele and then for whatever reason offs them….Kinky. What happened? They refused to pay? Didn’t like their lay?”

            “Who knows? We may be jumping to conclusions. We need to wait for the autopsy and see what the coroner says. In the meantime, let’s see the department psychiatrist to get a perspective on this.”


“So what’s going on,” inquired a well-dressed woman to the hotel’s bartender.

“Some guy died in one of the suites upstairs.”

“Oh, how awful.” Shelia said as she finished her drink and left the bar. She walked down 6th and tried to hail a cab. A big smile crossed her face. That’s another one I got away with. The dirty s.o.b!  The first one was in his office and he wanted to cheat me out of my fee. They’re all alike. They can all die as far as I am concerned. I need to go to my book and kill all of them. They used me and didn’t care. Now, I’m going to use them, take them for as much money as I can, and kill them all.


“So Bill… Joe, what can I do for you tonight? ...You didn’t get me out of bed to stare at me.” said Dr. Delmonico yawning.

“Well, Doc, we have what potentially is a big problem. We think a woman, likely a high class call girl, was at the scene of rich businessman’s death. The only thing we know was a lady called housekeeping for towels and when the maid came up, she was gone and the man in the bed had been dead at least two hours, said Miller”


“What is?” replied Kelby.

“She could have left without anyone knowing she was there but yet she called housekeeping. She wanted him to be found on her time table. I assume you dusted for prints.”

“Yeah, and there weren’t any,” stated Miller disappointedly.

“Most likely she wore gloves and wiped the place down. Then she called from either a house phone or a pay phone.”

“We should get a printout on the hotel phones,” replied Kelby.

‘It’s a waste of time. You’ll find she likely used a pay phone outside the hotel…So you’re sure it’s a woman?” asked Delmonico in a concerned voice.

“Uh, not a 100% but housekeeping said it sounded like a woman. That’s all we have to go on….We have another case that might be linked to this one that we thought was a natural death. What do you think, Doc?  You think it’s possible we have a high class prostitute offing her Johns?” said Miller hoping for one answer but expecting another.

“I think we have a person who is suffering from ACE. Adverse Childhood Experiences. Something in her background like abuse by a family member, alcoholism, drug abuse, a relative who was incarcerated, maybe soemone with mental health issues, or a suicide in the family, pushed her to leave home at an early age.. Sixty-four percent of people have experienced one ACE growing up and seventeen percent experienced four or more. I suspect your lady probably came from a house where she experienced one or more of these experiences. Maybe she had an alcoholic parent; her mother could have been a prostitute or had possible mental illness issues. If your suspect is a professional, she’s been on the streets working as a lady of the evening for a long time. It beat the physical, emotional, or mental trauma of living at home. The poor kid only had one way to make a living and that was hooking. It was better to be on the streets than at with her family.”

“But why now? Why kill the men who made her a living?” responds an exasperated Kelby.

“Something set her off. ACE victims act out in different ways. She probably worked her way up to being a high class prostitute without a pimp and developed her own cliental of rich businessmen. What set her off? Could be one didn’t pay for services rendered or a client tried to cheat her on what was agreed upon. Something snapped and now she’s killing her Johns.”

“We don’t know how the Johns even died yet. We’re waiting for the autopsy but our first victim overdosed on digitalis. We believe the second death was the same,” said Miller.

“You know that all the Johns won’t be on that med. As time goes on, she’ll have to use something else,” responded Dr. Delmonico. “This person sounds too smart for a common poison. I would check for needle marks. If you get anymore dead Johns, check for potassium chloride. It stops the heart and dissipates quickly. And look for needle marks in the mouth and at the hairline.”

“The mouth?” replied Kelby with a start.

“No one would think to look there.”

“Thanks Doc,” said Kelby and Miller in unison.


 “Well you were right,” said the coroner to Miller and Kelby. “He died of an overdose of digitalis. I reviewed the other autopsy but I would have to exhume the body and do more testing to prove it was a homicide. That death was ruled accidental. I suggest you only decide to do that as the last resort.”


Now this is good. I have the cops running around in circles. Sheila kicked off her high heel shoes and poured herself a glass of red wine. Dummies, all of them especially the men. The nerve of those idiots, not paying my rate saying I wasn’t worth it. After all the years they came to me. After everything I’ve done for them. I was there when their wives and girlfriends weren’t and they tossed me aside like an old shoe. I showed them and I’ll show the rest of them too. Tomorrow I’ll pick another man in my little black book who I haven’t talked to in a while. He probably hasn’t been laid recently either. It’ll be old home week at the farm.


“It’s almost morning. Let’s knock off and get some sleep eh, Kelby,” Miller asks as he is getting ready to go home.

‘There’s something bothering me.”

“Like what?”

“Like the two dead men. One’s first name started with an A and the other’s first name started with B. You think it is a coincidence?

“Maybe? Perhaps our perp is killing in alphabetical order.”

“That’s all we need. And if the papers get a hold of this…, God, Joe…we don’t know that for sure and we don’t have her book so don’t even think it.

“If that’s true, all I can say is shit,” replied Miller


“Hi Charlie,” said Sheila coyly on the phone.

“I told you not to call me here.”

“Why not? We had some good fun for a while.”

“I’ve given you up.”

“Really? Can you honestly say that? Is your wife taking care of your needs?” responded Shelia teasingly.

“No…I can’t say she is.”

“Want to get together?”

“When and where?”   

“How about that little motel on Third where we used to get it on? We had a lot of good times there.”

“Meet you at 10 tonight?

“Great. It’s been awhile. My prices went up but I’ll make sure you have a real good time.”

“No problem. See you at 10.”


“I’ve brought a nice wine for us to share,” cooed Shelia as she put the wine and glasses on the bedside table.

“I take meds. I’m not allowed alcohol.”

“Ah…just one glass won’t hurt.”

“Okay but first, let’s get to it. I’ve been looking forward to this all day. Then the wine.”

“But of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


“That was nice. Let’s have a glass of wine,” said Charlie.

“Love to,” replied Sheila with a smirk.


            “Sorry to get you out of bed at 3 in the morning but the guy in #5 was supposed to be out by 2 and when he didn’t leave I went to see what was up.” said the manager of the motel to both Miller and Kelby.

            “AM?” responded a totally surprised Miller.

            “We rent the rooms by the hour.”

            “Oh sorry, never done an hourly rental before,” said Miller sarcastically. “So what happened?”

            “When he didn’t check out, I went to find out why and he was dead in the bed.”

            “You didn’t touch anything, did you?” asked Kelby

            “No siree… I left everything the way it was and called you people.”


Miller and Kelby went to the coroner.

“Cause of death appears to be tetrodotoxin,” said the coroner matter-of-factly.

“What the hell is that?” shouted Miller.

“It’s puffer fish toxin,”

“You gotta be shitting me,” exclaimed Kelby.

“No, your perp introduced it into his wine.”

 “I don’t believe this,” said Miller

“She’s getting creative… Hey, look at this. His name is Charlie. Well, that solidifies my theory. She’s killing in alphabetical order. Holy cows, wait till the media get a hold of this,” said Kelby not believing it himself.

“That, my friend might be our ace in the hole. Her next John will start with a D. If we release this information, it could save some poor man from a hook-up or she could change her modus operandi. I don’t know what to do,” said Miller.

“I don’t think she’ll change her ways. She’s too methodical. Methodical in how she kills her Johns and now methodical in how she picks her victims. She’ll see if she can out think us.”

“So what do we do? Contact every rich businessman whose first name starts with the letter D?”

“What are you, nuts?” replies Kelby giving Miller a look that could kill stare.

“You or they won’t think I’m nuts if we stop another murder.

“ALPHABET KILLER STRIKES AGAIN” was the headline of the morning paper. Sheila grabbed one off the stand and started laughing. They think they know who they’re dealing with. Well they don’t.

            Shelia goes to her upstairs apartment, takes her shoes off, and turns on the TV. It was the lead story on the news. More bullshit about a suspected prostitute killing her Johns. They don’t have a clue. I’m just getting started. They can kiss my ass.

            “Hello, David. How are you? It’s been awhile,” said sweet talking Sheila.

            “So it has. How have you been?”

            “Great. I’ve missed you. Want to get together?” said Sheila coyly.

“Love to but I can’t tonight. But tomorrow I’m free. Does that work for you?’

“My prices went up but I assure you’ll have a real good time.”

“I’m sure I will. We’ve always had a good time. You’ve never disappointed me. Where do you want to meet?”

“How about the Hotel Langtree, Downtown?”

“Okay, how about 9 p m?” said David anxiously.

“9 p m it is. See you there.”

David Henderson, head of the biggest tuna business in the country, called the police, and asked for detectives handing the Alphabet Killer Case.


“I think I know who you are after. I used to see a call girl but stopped when I got married and she called me after a long time and wants to see me.”

“What’s your first name?”


“You might be right. Go through with it. Let me write down the details. We’ll have the place bugged and wired. We need to get evidence against her otherwise all we have her on is a prostitution charge. Don’t eat or drink anything she gives you. You bring the booze and the glasses. Don’t let her or the booze out of your sight.”


            “David, it’s so wonderful to see you,” said Shelia almost glowing.

            “Same here.”  

            “I brought some bourbon to toast to us.”

            “I brought chilled Champagne. Your favorite.”

            “How thoughtful.”

“I much rather get it on with you. It’s been so long. I missed you,” said David as he started to get undressed.

“I’ve missed you too.”

            David and Shelia made love while the men in the stakeout watched through the cameras and listened in on radios.


            “You know, Kelby, we're always on the outside looking in.”

            “Don’t remind me,” responded Miller.


            “Oh my God, I can’t believe how good you are. It has been a long time,” said David approvingly.

            “You were always one of my favorite clients. It’s a pity we lost touch. Come on, let’s have a drink.”

            “Get ready. Here she goes,” said Kelby.

            Shelia got out of bed and put on her silk robe. She went to the champagne bottle, opened it, and then poured the bubbly liquid in the two glasses. She reached into her robe and pulled out a packet of white powder and poured it into one of the glasses.

            “That’s it. Let’s move,” shouted Miller.

            Kelby and Miller busted down the door. David grabbed his pants while they attempted to restrain the running Sheila. She fled to the bathroom to toss the glass of liquid down the sink.

            “What are you doing? You’re nothing but a bunch of peeping Toms.”

            “Thanks David.” Miller nodded to him.

            “Thank you for being right where you said you’d be.

            “You’re such an s.o.b., David! All you men are”

            “If we’re, what does that make you?” asked Kelby.

            “I hate all of you. All of you!,” screamed Shelia as she was handcuffed and taken away.

            Miller looked at Kelby and said, “I guess that’s one woman’s opinion.”  

About the auhtor

 Since becoming disabled in 2015, Maxine took up her passion for writing. She has been published several times in the Los Angeles Daily News, The Epoch Times, Nail Polish Stories, DarkWinterLit, BrightFlashLiteraryReview, OtherwiseEngagedLit, CafeLit, and Maudlin House
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Tuesday 30 January 2024

Singles on the Prowl by Frank Zahn, a glass of white wine

As if stepping out of a Lana Turner movie, Marianne Kennedy arrived at the luxurious Omaha Country Club in a stunning yellow chiffon dress, matching satin heels, and a pearl necklace with pearl drop earrings. All eyes were on her as she strolled through the foyer and into the Gold Room where the Selects were having a dinner dance.

She spotted her best friend Myra Thompson and sat down next to her at a dinner table near the dance floor. Each table in the room was draped in white linen, set with sterling and crystal for eight people, and had a centerpiece that Marianne thought a little corny for a singles’ get-together—a lone white candle in a small bouquet of daisies and forget-me-nots.

Myra told her to move over a seat. “It gives me a chance to have a man seated on both sides of me,” she whispered.

Charlie Davis, a shy and homely man with a ruddy face, a construction worker’s tan, and a gaze that never left Myra for long, seated himself between her and Marianne. Myra’s eyes lit up. Her eyes lit up again when Ken Williams, the Selects’ outspoken and witty attorney with a limp from arthritis in his left knee, kissed her on the back of the neck and asked if he could sit on the other side of her, to which she was delight to say, “Yes, Ken, by all means do.”

Myra introduced Marianne to everyone at the table as a new member.

Minutes later, a voice from over Marianne’s left shoulder said, “Is this seat next to you taken?”

Marianne turned her head. It was the voice of a man she had not met. God, he’s gorgeous! she thought.

“No, it’s not taken,” she said.

The man sat down and scooted his chair close to hers. “My name’s Harry Malone,” he said.

“Hi, Harry. I’m Marianne Kennedy.”

“I know.”


“I asked someone when you came in,” Harry said with a grin. “I haven’t been able to take my eyes off you.”

Marianne’s face flushed.

Harry had already met Myra, but he introduced himself to the others at the table as the waiters and waitresses served the first course, lobster bisque. After the bisque and a vinaigrette salad, everyone chiseled away at the Nebraska beef on their dinner plates; folded into their baked potatoes lots of butter, cheese sauce, sour cream, chives, salt, and ground pepper; and gulped down a nameless red wine that a hovering waiter poured from a tall carafe.

Marianne and Harry exchanged a few pleasantries during dinner. Mostly they just listened to Myra and the others at the table gush about the wonderful people they had met since joining the Selects; the club’s golf outings; the Wednesday afternoon bridge games; the weekend trips to play golf each summer at Lake Okoboji; and the Selects’ Saturday night dinner parties, especially those at Matty McPhee’s house in Regency. Everyone agreed that the mystery bus ride, which turned out to be a trip to Kansas City to have dinner and see the Christmas lights on the Plaza, was the highlight of last year’s activities.

During a dessert of Cherries Jubilee, Nuncio Pomodoro and his band played Glen Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade.” Myra asked Ken Williams to dance, and he obliged. But when the dance was over, much to her disappointment, he wandered off to the bar without her. She returned to the table and pulled Charlie out onto the dance floor. They danced almost every dance thereafter.

Harry and Marianne danced together until Nuncio and his band played a polka. Then they went to the bar for another drink. The bartender fixed Harry a bourbon and water and poured a glass of Chardonnay for Marianne.

With drinks in hand, Harry suggested they take a look at the view from the large window behind the bandstand. At each other’s side, they sipped their drinks and gazed out the window at the potted geraniums and petunias on the patio and as much of the lush greenery of the golf course as the full moon and outside lights allowed.

After several minutes of silence, Harry turned to Marianne and smiled. “Now that we’ve met, had dinner together, and you know what a rotten dancer I am, do you want to tell me your life’s story first, or do you want me to tell you mine?”

Marianne smiled but did her best to avoid eye contact with Harry. She didn’t want to give away her strong attraction to him.

“Is that the way single people that are our age get acquainted?” she said.

“It seems to be.”

“You must be a fairly new club member, Harry?”

“Yeah, I joined about a couple of months ago.”

“You’re an old-timer compared to me. I joined last week.”

Harry gulped down the last of his bourbon and water. “I get a kick out of the name of the club,” he said. “Selects is short for Socially Select International. If that doesn’t sound pretentious, I don’t know what does. Ken Williams, the guy who sat on the other side of Myra at the dinner table, is well connected socially in Omaha because he’s a hotshot attorney and has lots of money. My golf buddy Bob Bauer is also well connected—and for the same reasons. Several of the women might qualify as well, primarily because they’re wealthy. They inherited lots of bucks from their dead husbands or extracted it from their divorced husbands. But most of the members, me included, are not socially-select in Omaha, let alone internationally.”

Although Marianne believed it was true, she thought it unkind of Harry to say that most of the Select’s members had little or no social standing. She also resented his crack about women who extracted money from their divorced husbands as if they were not entitled to any money or property from their marriages.

“You sound cynical, Harry,” she said.

“Maybe a little, but many a word of truth is said cynically.”

Marianne drank the last of her wine.

“From what I’ve observed, women benefit from singles’ clubs more than men,” Harry said.

“What makes you say that?”

“Women use them to corral, manage, and control the short supply of men. Take the Selects, for example. Sally Duncan, our illustrious, all-powerful, and charming director, and the older women in the club—her lieutenants—dominate everything. And they’re aggressive as hell. Many of the women I met at the bar tonight are hot on the trail of any man in sight. It didn’t used to be that way. Men used to chase women, but now it’s the other way around. And women are much better organized at it than men. They set up and run the singles’ clubs, otherwise known as meat markets. The men are the meat and the women chase after them, hungry as hell.”

“Are you saying that all the women here tonight are after you?” Marianne said with a chuckle.

“Not just me—anything in pants, especially if he’s got big bucks.”

“I’m not chasing anyone, Harry, and I have big bucks of my own. So you can relax.”

“Sorry. I should have said present company excluded.”

“Yes, you should have.”

Harry hesitated. “Am I talking like a jerk?”

“Let’s just say you’re exaggerating.”

“But you have noticed some of what I’m saying, haven’t you?”

“I’ve noticed that some women get a little anxious when it comes to men, but I’m sure you men will survive it all and probably enjoy a lot of it.”

Harry cleared his throat. “As long as Sally and her lieutenants plan a lot of golf, I’ll be happy. And don’t misunderstand. I’m not worried about being managed and controlled. That won’t happen. Besides, I actually admire the women who join these clubs. They have the good sense to join and gain an advantage in the market over other women for us poor, misunderstood, and often maligned creatures who bring home paychecks and have male hormones, however sluggish after fifty.”

Marianne laughed.

Harry gazed into her eyes. “I hope I’m not being too forward, but I like you. I like your smile and the way you laugh.”

Marianne blushed. “That’s sweet, Harry. Thank you.”

“But most of all, I like the way you come back at me when you think I’ve gone too far with my bluntness.”

“I had four brothers who were like that, so I know how to handle it.”

“Have dinner with me tomorrow night.”

“Wow, you don’t waste any time.”

“At my age, I can’t afford to. So, what about it? Dinner tomorrow night?”

I wish I could, Harry, but I can’t,” Marianne said. “I do volunteer work with children at Richard Young Hospital, and tomorrow evening, they’re having a talent show for their parents. I promised to be there. But what about Sunday?”

“I’m leaving town on Sunday, but when I get back, I’ll call you. Is your number on the club members’ list?”

“Yes. Sally just put out an updated list, and my number is on it.”

Marianne glanced at Myra, who was motioning for her to come back to the dinner table. “Harry, Myra wants something. She probably wants me to go with her to the ladies’ room so she can find out what we’ve been talking about.”

Harry smiled. “I’ll walk you back to the table, but afterward, I want to say hello to some people I know at the bar. We can talk more over dinner when I get back from Chicago at the end of next week.”

At the dinner table, Marianne sat next to Myra, who had been waiting impatiently for Charlie to return from the men’s room. She told Myra everything Harry had said.

“Sounds promising,” Myra said with a gleam in her eyes. “You may well have snagged the best-looking guy in the club. But take it from me. Men have a tendency to show an interest and promise to call, but never do. For your sake, I sure hope Harry is not one of them.”

Marianne started to respond to Myra’s comments, but stopped when Myra turned her attention to Charlie, who finally returned to the table. And before he could sit down, Myra jumped to her feet and pulled him out onto the dance floor.

One man after another asked Marianne to dance, and she obliged, except when asked by a man who had had too much to drink. She felt sorry for the women who were never asked and seemed too shy to ask the men. She marveled at the way they maintained their smiles throughout the evening—although strained at times—and remarked at every opportunity that they were having a marvelous time.

Occasionally, she glanced at Harry, who spent most of the remainder of the evening at the bar, a highball in hand and chatting with other members of the club. She wanted to ask him to dance but didn’t want to give him the impression that she was one of those aggressive, controlling, and manipulative women he had shown so much disdain for earlier. I like him. I like him a lot, she thought. And I hope he was serious about calling me when he returns from his trip to Chicago.

About the author

Frank Zahn is an author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. His publications include nonfiction books, articles, commentaries, book reviews, and essays; novels; short stories; and poetry. Currently, he writes and enjoys life at his home among the evergreens in Vancouver, Washington, USA. For details, visit his website, 

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