About the Book

A murderer stalks the orange groves of 1923 Southern California.

Detective Sidney Snipes is called to the Harrington Manor when retired Colonel Peter Wescott Harrington is found slumped over his desk by his family.

Snipes entrusts the sensational new crime fighting technology - Fingerprint Analysis to find a fierce fiend.

Just when he thinks he has the murderer cornered, an unsolved missing person cold case rumples his proficient sleuthing skills. Then another Harrington turns up dead, and a sinister child’s Jack-in-the-box seems to have come from the grim reaper himself.

The case leads Snipes in a direction he never saw coming. 

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Excerpt from the Book

From Harrington Manor

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Once upon a time, in a land destined to become synonymous with fantasy. Mrs. Gwendolyn Beazly shoved away from her kitchen table, leaving her breakfast uneaten. 

Her next-door neighbor, Ruth Rutledge, watched with widened eyes. Maybe, she thought, she shouldn't have told Gwendolyn about the unfortunate mailman, then she noticed the euphoria in the other woman's face, and was sure of it.

Mrs. Beazly paused as she sprinted out of the kitchen. Glancing down at her dress, she smoothed the material. But her news was too important to spare the time to change. She touched the tip of her finger to her tongue and scrubbed at the droplet of scrambled eggs that had fallen on her bodice when she'd thrown her fork into her plate. She popped on the first hat her fingers touched from the hat stand as she headed for the front door. 

She signaled to Ruth to close her front door while she grabbed her bike from under a lean-to shed. Ruth was all but forgotten as Gwendolyn hopped on her bike. She raced away from her home as if Satan was desperately trying to grab and drag her essence into his abominable abyss.

She pumped each bike pedal with increasing speed. She was on a mission. She would dole out her tidbits of tasty scuttlebutt in order of importance and priority. Friends and neighbors could wait to hear about the accident. She would inform the prodigious Harringtons’ estate first.

She felt every one of her fifty-five years as she pumped the bike up a slight incline. The tweedle of the robins, the scent of orange poppies, and clusters of white alyssum, which she usually cherished, was ignored as she weaved around the pitted street. Being a widow who savored the delicious taste of gossip as it left her tongue, she had important news to spread. 

She maneuvered her bicycle from the paved county road, and held on tight to the handlebars. Traveling down what could be considered at best - a red-rock gravel lane, held her full attention. One moment of distraction and the treacherous booby traps, which were nothing more than wicked potholes, would see her task ended. She would have given anything for the yellow brick road that Dorothy sashayed along, but it wasn't there—yet. Against her better judgment, she glanced at the row after row of orange trees proudly standing erect for miles. The cycle under her suddenly threatened to throw her to the ground. Her whole body shook as the bike shot through several more potholes. She clung to the handlebar with one hand as she fought to get her hat out of her eyes. She almost cried out as a stab of pain thrust into her rump. Her determination to reach her destination never faltered. 

As she pedaled around another pothole, Mrs. Beazly concluded that a Chicken Little variety disaster had struck her quiet world. In her simple life, fresh news that dripped with Hollywood intrigue spelled calamity.

She hastened, feeling it was her call of duty to inform the world that the mail was going to be late. Her mind dramatized the saga a bit as she gained speed, twisting the facts slightly to match the rhythm of her spinning spokes. She sped on, constantly adjusting her hat after each bump. She added tempo to her pumping legs increasing her dangerous pace, determined to share in the day’s fifteen minutes of fame.

A wide grin spread across her face when she reached the point in her trek where The Harringtons great house was only a mile away. She gave a brief glance at the ranch hands’ quarters as she passed. They were on the left back some sixty feet from the gravel road. The maze of cottages even had its own separate central dining hall—a buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ranch hands, their wives, and children could eat in groups or whenever they wanted. She waved at the children playing on seesaws, swings, and other playground mechanisms as nice as any at a city park, all of which made for a delightful childhood. She’d always wondered why the Harringtons would go to such extremes to provide such charming housing for common laborers, making the homes at Buena Park and other neighboring communities appear shoddy.

She glanced to the right as she rode past the estate manager’s home, some 200 feet past the iron-fenced entrance. Perched on a slightly mounded rise, a big, relatively new bungalow stood with an attached garage and most definitely an architectural tour de force. Mrs. Beazly had never seen anything like it before. It’s overhangs and trellises smacked of oriental influence.

Mrs. Beazly slowed down when the mission-style red clay roofs came into view. The sun reflected brightly off the clay as she neared Harringtons’ manor, her eyes narrowed briefly at the blinding ray. Another few seconds and she glided her bike under the porte cochere and stopped at the front entrance.

The urgency left her in a flutter. She drew in panted breaths and slowly gained control of her arduous wheezing. Only then did she noticed the songs of the birds chirping from nests covertly fashioned in the wood framing above her head. 

The hot June sun soared higher in the sky flashing its rays directly downward. She held her bicycle between her legs and shook her everyday blue gingham dress to dissipate the sticky perspiration from her body. Once she was satisfied that she wasn’t too repulsive to the eye, she straightened the top of her dress and dismounted her bicycle. 

She searched for the songbirds perched in the structure above. She’d always admired that particularly magnificent shelter. In inclement weather, the colonel’s invited swells for one of his frequent winter social events could enter without getting wet. Mrs. Beazly’s mind envisioned the local internationally renowned Shakespearean Polish actress, Helena Modjeska, and her entourage being helped from a horse drawn carriage, and thought the budding movie dignitaries, like Cecil B. DeMille and Charlie Chaplin probably arrived in fancy automobiles. She heard that at the Christmas party they took home spectacularly decorated baskets loaded with impeccable charcuteries and mellifluous cheer. She vigorously shook her head, for she was subliminally beginning to smell and taste the always-included French foie gras

When her huffing and puffing subsided somewhat, she relaxed from pedaling so hard for over three miles and felt the burning in her thighs dissipate. Mrs. Beazly could finally smell the roses and see the bees dancing around, taking turns sucking nectar from a rainbow of various blooms. Her gaze quickly scanned for those stinging devils, knowing they were close. She knew the estate had a bee shed and was always wary of bees attacking her delicate skin. However, the flash of colorful feathers darting around caught her eyes. Two humming birds were in nature’s choreographed ballet. She instantly forgot about the insects. She placed her bike against the exterior adobe veranda wall, pulled out a rather long hatpin, removed her blue hat with its upward-curved brim enhanced by a small white flower in front, and wiped her forehead with a perfumed kerchief. She adjusted her hair, reattached the hat, and drove the hatpin through her chignon.

She carefully climbed three steps to the veranda and once again faced Harrington Manor’s pair of stunning ten-foot-tall doors that displayed Byzantine motifs surrounding leaded stained glass design above. She always felt like she was entering a sanctuary rather than their foyer. She glanced above once more to embrace such grandeur, but never understood the meaning of the symbol below the red glass - ten-inch high phrase 'U.S. ARMY'.

Mrs. Beazly approached the doors, threw her shoulders back, stood as tall as her five-foot stature would allow, seized an ornate seven-inch, sterling silver ring with her right hand and gave it a robust yank. The bell cord was attached to a bronze bell. The colonel’s architect found a salvaged one from an old eighteenth-century destroyed Mexican church. It was refitted with an extra large clapper. 

 

She released the silver ring, forced a smile, while the twenty-eight-inch round bell clamored out, “I’m here! I’m here!”