Gregory Darrell is the P.I. in Herbert Caliste's detective mystery, BILOXI P.I. A woman calling herself Glenda Turman tries to hire him, but refuses to tell him exactly what she's after. Darrell doesn't take the case, but Glenda (aka Joan Plumb) turns up murdered, and he finds himself caught in the intrigue, violence and politics emanating from a child sex porn ring in rural Harrison county. This fast-paced story is suffused with humor, and with the flavor of the area in and around Biloxi, Mississippi.
Excerpts from BILOXI P.I..
All excerpts copyright©1998 by Herbert Caliste.
Mondays tend to be bad days but Tuesdays can sometimes be worse. This one was the pits. The problems started on Sunday. I was actually stupid enough to go to New Orleans to watch my favorite sports team, the New Orleans Saints. As usual they self-destructed, and I'd been in a bad mood since. After all these years growing up with the Saints, I should know not to get my hopes up, but every year I get excited all over again only to have my emotions trounced for yet another long football season. One of these days, if I live long enough, my Saints will come marching in.
After fighting New Orleans traffic and driving back to Mississippi Sunday evening, I was in no mood for work Monday. Finding a parking space downtown was rarely a problem until the casinos arrived, but luckily my usual lot near the post office had a single available spot. I briskly walked the short block to my office building which was right across the street from the courthouse. The first floor was a finance business. My office was on the second floor overlooking downtown Biloxi. What more could a guy ask for? I climbed the narrow stairs and pushed open the heavy metal door. The door of the lawyer's office on the left was closed. I could see the secretary, a short brunette, typing at a side desk. Maybe I should get a secretary, I thought. My office was the next one on the right. And right next to the bold and tasteful logo that read Gregory Darrell Investigations was a note. Someone had stopped by my office earlier and would be back at three thirty. The name on the note was G. Turman.
Even putting professional pride and personal ego aside, I didn't like the sound of this. Not only did she make me sound like some sort of slug, but she talked down to me. I hate people talking down to me, even if they are six inches taller than I am. This whole thing sounded like ok boy, here's a case, now fetch. What was I supposed to say now, woof woof? Not very inviting.
"Ms. Turman, if you must have an answer right now, then based on what you've told me so far, I simply can't help you."
"Why not?" she asked with a twitch of her head. Woof woof.
"You're not being up front with me. I reserve the right to decide when I'll take a case and when I refuse one. Unless you tell me something definitive, the answer is no."
"I don't understand," she said squinting at me as if she couldn't believe how stupid I was, "I'm willing to pay whatever your fee is. I'm willing to pay whatever it takes, if you agree to help me." Woof woof.
"Ms. Turman," I shook my head as I stared into those alluring eyes, "I'm not interested."
The woman in my office was not very pleased; I could see that. She rose as if to leave, but she maintained eye contact with me. Her long gray coat opened slightly revealing a full length blue dress with a soft red belt. Her blonde hair glistened in the sunlight coming through the window. Face slightly pinched she asked the question again. "But why won't you take my case?" I cleared my throat and looked away from her as is my habit when I'm making someone else uncomfortable.
"Like I said before, Ms. Turman, I really can't see where I can help you. You say someone is blackmailing you, but you won't say who it is or why. And to be candid, blackmail is not my area of expertise. Why did you come to me?" An old PI trick - when in doubt, change the subject.
"I heard you were honest and that you could keep your mouth shut," she said, turning her nose up just a little bit. I was getting the feeling that her indignation at my disinterest in her case was close to boiling over. What she wanted to say was You ignorant Black jerk, how dare you tell me to get lost. But she maintained her civility and I maintained my composure.
"Uh huh, well, I am and I can, but that still doesn't change the situation we have here. I'm sorry."
Ever since she had stood, she had clutched her purse with both hands at her waist. Realizing that I really was refusing her, she let the purse slide down to her side in her right hand. She turned away frowning as she went to the door.
"Thank you for your time," she said in a tone that really meant 'go screw yourself'.
As the door closed behind her I leaned back in my chair and stared out the window. "Cad," I muttered to myself, "you didn't even stand when the lady left the room." One of several mistakes I may have made. Damn, she hadn't been gone ten seconds and I was already second guessing myself. I got up and paced my cluttered office. It didn't help. I felt like an idiot. Between Harvey and this Turman woman I had lost my appetite for work. Should I go to the gym in Gautier and work out? Nahh! Blow it off. A day off will probably do me good, I thought. I closed up shop and went home. It can be nice being the boss.
The sheriff's deputy in charge was a woman about five feet ten inches tall, with reddish hair tied back into a bun. She, like most of law enforcement, was not happy to make my acquaintance.
"We ought to charge you with murder, or at least manslaughter," she said in that stern tone they teach you at the police academy.
"Go ahead," I said.
"What? Oh a wiseass, huh? Well, how do we know things went as you said they did? How do we know that you didn't open fire first, or that you're not further involved in some other criminal activity?" She said all of this leaning over me as I sat in a chair in the sheriff's office interview room. Why is everybody so much taller than me?
"Well, my sterling reputation in the community has to count for something. And I mean c'mon, look at this face. Would I lie?" I smiled. She didn't.
"Your friend at the Biloxi PD doesn't carry any sway here, mister." She was virtually shouting at me and baring her teeth. She got two inches from my face as she spoke.
"You were in the military weren't you?" I said with as much sarcasm as I could and still keep a straight face. That really pissed her off. She slammed her bare hand down on the table in front of me and walked to other side of it.
"Is something funny, Mr. Darrell? Because I can't see the humor in this situation, and I don't see why you think this is such a joke."
I cleared my throat. "Funny? I'll tell you what tickles me, ma'am . . . "
"Lieutenant," she corrected me.
"Er, yes, lieutenant ma'am. When the Sun-Herald, the Clarion-Ledger, and WLOX television get word that the Harrison County Sheriff's Department allowed a known drug dealer, felon and all around bad guy to conduct a major child pornography operation right under its snarling, red-headed, androgynous nose, the fallout from the media and then the politicians, not to mention the general public, now that's funny. And all you can do is put handcuffs on me and bust my chops when you guys are sitting on Mount Vesuvius, that's hysterical." I smiled; she didn't. She stared at me blankly and then continued.
"And that's another thing - who do you think you are going on private property and tampering with evidence? That's obstruction. You should have stayed out of that building and called us immediately."
"You don't want me to answer that, lieutenant."
"Oh? And why is that?"
"Well, first of all, I didn't tamper with anything. Secondly, you were called and everything there was as it was before I went in. And thirdly, and this is the part you're not going to like. I don't trust you or anybody in the Sheriff's Department."
"What?" She was actually surprised at my answer.
"That's right. Two attempts had been made on my life and I was damn sure going to find out why. I figured it had to be something worth killing for, and I was right. Not only the murder of Joan Plumb, but a major child porn ring."
"What does this have to do with us?"
"Are you kidding? A murder in Biloxi, attempted murder in Ocean Springs and now out here in the county, a local porno operation. I had to think whether the Sheriff's Department was merely unaware or . . . " I trailed off.
"Or," she said through gritted teeth. "Or what? We're on the take, is that it?"
"Well, lieutenant, it did cross my mind."