The book store window contained rare first editions of the type of titles one would have on their bookshelf whether or not they read them simply to impress the dinner party crowd. Speare didn’t have dinner parties, closest he came was Grey Cup potlucks.
He scratched at the greying whiskers on his chin as he stepped in, like something out of a 1980’s movie, the front door has the jingle bells above that announce his entry. Directly to the left is a till and counter, a few feet to the right is a spiralling staircase to a second floor. First floor was fiction and children’s books, up the stair case was where the purveyor of the store kept non-fiction and graphic novels.
The owner actually looked like a middle aged leprechaun. Thankfully, Billy Sax detested the colour green so he refused to wear it. But as he moved towards the latter half of his forties he was growing to enjoy the leisure suit resurgence. Even if that resurgence happened back when he was barely a sparkle in his parent’s eyes.
“Speare what do I owe the pleasure?” Sax said.
“What Mon ami, you are Hawk to my Spenser, Watson to my Holmes…”
“Jughead to your Archie?”
“No Billy, seriously I’m Jughead, you can have the dramedy that is Archie.” Speare said. The eternal debate what is a better archetype, the asexual foodie or the archetype of teen puberty eternally seeking meaning through not choosing a path of life found in the archetypes of happily ever after that are Betty and Veronica.
“Seriously though man, if I am Hawk, well, I would suggest going to wherever one hires goons, and investing in some good ones, because I sell books and it isn’t a cover for being a super spy or tough guy.” Sax said.
“But is the pen not mightier than the sword my mystery writer?” Speare stated.
Sax stroked his reddish whitening beard, leaning onto the counter and off the bar stool he sat on behind. It was actually amazing with the low traffic the store got that Sax was able to keep it open, but Speare never questioned someone pursuing a dream to make a life. How many would think he was nuts for being a private eye? “As we have seen in some of, I guess you would say, our adventures it has proven to be such. But, and yes you knew there was going to be a but I do not think our usual pre-coffee verbal joust is what brought you in today.”
“Would you believe the new Jughead?”
“No, you picked it up three days ago.” Sax retorts.
Speare chuckles. He idly flips through a new Jesse Stone novel, another of Robert B. Parker’s mystery series’ creations. Created as Parker wanted to explore writing a series from a third person perspective. Where Spenser was a knight in shining armour, a true Superman of private eyes with his partner Hawk, the Batman of the mystery novel genre. Well Jesse Stone was a recovering/not wanting to recover alcoholic-small town police chief seeking redemption whose tales spun closer to Joseph Campbell’s Heroes Journey theory than an Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie who done it.
“Okay my current events junkie of a sidekick.”
“You wound me Speare lowering me to Robin, for your third rate Batman wanna be.” Sax said, “alas thou doeth speaketh the truth. What current event are we seeking discernment on?”
Speare puts the book back on the shelf, his good eye glances over to the Clive Cussler section, the Dirk Pitt adventures he always enjoyed, especially looking for how Cussler would create a cameo to aid the hero in each story. Probably where Marvel movies got the idea for the Stan Lee cameo’s in each movie, only difference being that Cussler played himself so it was more of the “god entering into the story” motif. “The creepy old buggars that run St. Andrew’s U hired me to find out who offed their padre.” Speare noted he would need to work on speaking tough guy more easily so it rolled off his tongue sounding natural. The banter was possibly the hardest part of the job.
Sax’s belly laugh started in his toes, and was probably how Santa Clause sounded on a Christmas Eve run. “Ah yes those buggars. They still owe me quite a pretty some, but why take the money?”
That was the hardest part to explain out loud Speare found. Explaining why he felt the need to solve the mystery in the first place, it wasn’t simply because he had a knack for connecting the dots, because as Sax had phrased it: adventures, did not always involve a body. Sometimes it was artifacts, monies or missing folks. But this was a good old fashion who killed him. Not as technical as a locked room but close.
“Because someone is dead, and there needs to be justice.” Speare stated plainly.
Sax removed his half spectacles and pinched the bridge of his nose as he chose the next words to leave his mouth. “Yet if I remember correctly it was blamed on a robbery. The police are seeking the unknown assailant. Where do you come in?”
Speare moved his way to peer over into the window display, picking up a copy of a Louis L’amour book. A first edition, but it was a western pot boiler that showed his own swash buckling from the Great American Western frontier. Speare puts it back down. “That is a good question. At first since the good pastor started as a Catholic priest I checked the obvious.”
“Ah Bishop Paul quite a lot more progressive than you would think. So that did not pan out what are you thinking? The husband possibly?”
“I was thinking that Billy, yet it seems far too obvious and cliché. There was three men at the table, and one nice old lady.”
“Arsenic and Old Lace tells us that you have to watch out for those tea grannies, they have a mean streak and will bury you.” Sax said.
Speare smiled, his scars moved in a way that if there was sound it would be like old creasing leather. “Never thought of Mrs. Lowery being the doer, but then all the information isn’t in. No what I am looking for is information you may have around St. Andrew’s. Seriously as quiet as this place can be, you are a better gossip mill than the local pubs of this burg.”
Sax moves in an aw shucks shrug, not arguing the vantage point that he tended to hear more than anyone outside of probably a priest in the pre-Vatican II confessional closets. It was amazing what people would talk with each other about while wandering around looking for new reading material. Sax may not be the muscle of a Hawk, but he blended into the background enough to be a great gather of information.
“Who are we looking at?”
From his coat inside pocket Speare pulls out a small notebook and flips it open. “Well the Board Chair is Harvey Gould, finance is Geoff Hasselback, and the widow is…”
“Jerome O’Neil.” Sax finished the list, “he is also past chair, and auditor of St. Andrew’s. His family has a long history at that church, they were the ones that literally purchased the cornerstone.” Speare looked mildly impressed, but it was nothing more one could not locate with a strong Google search. There had to be something else brewing, although knowing that Jerome’s family went that far back at St. Andrew’s.
“Soooo… what do we know about the other two?” Speare said.
“Not so much. But I will open up my ears, as you begin the search. Anything else useful?”
Speare absent mindedly twirled a rack of bookmarks as he pondered the question. There was information he had gathered from the tea lady at the church, and from Bishop Paul in regards to the send of Rex had been given from the Cathedral. Yet it more excluded thoughts of what could’ve happened than created an idea of what did happen. “It is a story of a man with a calling from God, but then breaking an earthly institutional law and fell in love. Yet there is a story of acceptance, that saw his community celebrate his loss of vocation in finding love and resettlement with a new sacred community of love and acceptance. All seemed well, hell, from all reports this passionate preacher and community builder renewed a dying community and got St. Andy’s re-engaged with the community the building was falling apart in. Then one dark and stormy night, he allegedly surprises someone burglaring for the offertory and his life is ended. This new vibrant space can’t even pay to have the carpet cleaned properly to remove signs of his blood. Which leave me to…”
“Wonder where the money is that should’ve been able to replace those carpets, and why a burglar who had multiple exits out of the sanctuary felt the need to whack the good reverend?” Sax finished.