Sample Chapter

Liz Blackbar

{Editor’s note: this is a sample chapter to let you see what kind of material you will get here. It is not actually part of Book One of The Campus Mystery Series. In the regular chapters, character background is usually built into the narrative. I will interrupt this chapter to add a few things to help you since this is probably the first item you will read here. Our tale begins at a small technical college in the St. Croix River Valley in the middle of the USA. Senior Editor, MysteriesPlus}

Liz Blackbar had a name that might make you think she spent her nights in some dark tavern amid smoke, booze, and who knows what else. That, however, was far from the facts of her life. She was not known to frequent bars, unless they had a frozen dairy treat in the offing. As for smoke and darkness, well, they just didn’t seem to be attached to Liz at all.

Liz was the PR lady for St. Croix College of Technology (SCCT.) Campus Administrator Moe Hufnagel knew that Liz was exactly the person he wanted to go before reporters if ever something really bad happened at the college. She was the kind who could report even a death and still send the reporters away with, if not a joke, at least a warm feeling and maybe a smile. He didn’t have much of a budget that he could send her way. What she got, she sometimes described this way, "I get less than one side of an old buffalo nickel." Still she managed to take what little came to her office and make it do the job as well as could be done on such limited funds.

Speaking of her office, that was a great contribution to SCCT itself. It was tiny, but she did get one of the few spaces at SCCT with both a door and a window. Moe had seen to that. In the space available, she had established what many thought of as "The Liz Blackbar Museum of Curiosities and Amazement." Among its many attractions was a siren from a 1930’s fire engine. High on a shelf in a glass box sat a not quite identified scale that may once have been used to weigh grain. It was a true wonder in gleaming brass and thin black lines that had meant something to the designer but now just looked interesting and even artistic to the average office visitor. It was probably what the artsy tourist guide books called "evocative." People at SCCT didn’t use words like that very much, if ever. Other wonders of the museum were a wide array of toys, whirligigs and whatnots that left visiting children and more than one colleague with mouth agape. Crowning it all, of course, was Liz herself, all smiles and ready for fun or business as the situation required. If the two could be mixed, she calculated, so much the better.

What happened to Liz just wasn’t right. Everyone agreed on that. However, at the human level, only two determined and highly skilled young men could put it right—Holmes and Watson.

{Editor’s Note:

Sorry to interrupt dear reader, but I think you need to know here that these are not the Holmes and Watson you may be thinking about. The Holmes here is Morelock Holmes. It was his great uncle who first brought fame to the name and who taught Morelock a great deal. Once the first great detective went to meet his Maker, Morelock took up the crime fighting mantle and took it to places his great uncle could never have imagined. Morelock is about thirty years of age and is always the latest to have the very newest electronic device, be it a computer, phone or whatever. He is a military veteran and an alumnus of SCCT.

This Watson is the grandson of the other doctor of that name of whom you may have read. This Dr. Watson is a psychologist who teaches at North Star College in St. Paul, MN. He often works cases along with Morelock Holmes. Now back to the story.}

Liz loved décor, as anyone who visited her office could see at a glance. She decorated her little car and she chose both her clothing and her jewelry carefully. As for jewelry, she wore a little and that was always very tasteful and not over the top like her office. She had purchased a very pretty Star of David necklace and put it on one morning before leaving for work. Her husband, a reserve police officer and substitute teacher, hadn’t seen it before. "Is that necklace something new?" he asked over breakfast. "Yes, I found it yesterday and just had to have it. It only cost $8.95 but it’s supposed to be genuine ivory." "You know I don’t quibble about what you buy with your own money, especially if it costs less than ten dollars. I am wondering why the Star of David. You haven’t decided to convert to Judaism have you?" "No, I just wanted something pretty. Besides, now that you bring it up, I’m tired of the continual nonsense of people who claim to be Christians dumping on the Jews. We have to get over that. It’s the twenty-first century."

"I know," he replied, "but remember, you are working in a little town in the Middle West. Some people here have never seen a Jew that they know about. They might give you a hard time." "I’m a big girl. I can handle it." "I know, but just in case, remember I’m on your speed dial and I have a service revolver." "I hardly think I’ll encounter anything needing such a dramatic response," she said as she gave him a quick kiss and headed out of the door. "Love ya!" "Same to you, lady!" came the reply.

Liz was always right, almost. This was a day for the "almost." Liz pulled into the parking lot in her cute little car with the rosebud vase. Her vase, however, contained a sunflower. It was a bit much for the vase, but it stood up. A false nose on an elastic band hung from the rear view mirror. Aside from these items, the car looked pretty much like any other shiny little bug on wheels. Its bright yellow color did make it easy to spot, however.

Liz had what she thought was a pretty normal day. She taught a class since there had been and unexpected need for a writing instructor that semester and she was more than qualified for that. Then she spent the rest her day in her museum/office planning a new advertising campaign for the college. It was only when she emerged to go home that she realized she had left her keys in the car.

"No," she thought, "you can have the car if you must, but you’ll never get my key ring!" Sadly, this was the day that Liz was wrong twice. The keys were not exactly what she wanted. She had placed her late mother’s wedding ring on the key ring to remind her of the now departed parents she had loved so deeply. Sadly, her car, the keys, and the wedding ring were definitely missing. She did not call for a dramatic rescue from her husband. She carefully scoured the parking lot. Then when she was absolutely sure that the car was missing, she dialed 911. After she identified herself, the dispatcher put her call through to the Richmont Police Department. A voice said, "We have it here in our parking lot. You can pick it up if you want it. Better bring a tow truck though. That’s what we needed to get it here after we got it unwrapped from the utility pole." That’s when she called for the dramatic rescue.

Liz and her husband, Dan, pulled up to the spot in the parking lot where the poor little car awaited burial. A tear ran down Liz’ cheek. She loved that car. It was the first new car she had ever had. Now it was dead. She raced to it to check for the key ring. It was gone. "Wait," she said. "There’s writing in apparently permanent marker all over my poor little bug." What they read was not for women and children or men for that matter. The car was covered with anti-Semitic graffiti. She looked up at her husband who held his lips tightly together. He knew this was not the time for an "I told you so." He simply said, "We’ll get them. I have a friend."

He called Morelock Holmes. Holmes called Dr. Watson. Both detectives met with Dan and Liz at the Blackbar home later that night. "I don’t quite know if this comes under hate crime laws or not," said Dan. Liz isn’t Jewish but somebody obviously thought she was. "Every crime is a hate crime as far as I’m concerned," said Holmes. "Often the greatest hate in a criminal situation is self hate on the part of the perpetrator," added the psychology professor." "It’s all because I couldn’t resist that Star of David necklace. I had never worn it before today. They certainly didn’t wait long to show their ignorance." "This crowd often doesn’t," said Holmes. "We’ve dealt with their type before," added Watson. "Right, it’s probably another of Harshreich’s evil deeds, but getting him has proved a bit tough. We should be able to track the actual perpetrators. He usually sets up a plan and then vanishes before his henchmen pull off the crime. We certainly will get them and maybe this time we’ll get him too."

"Harshreich, I’ve heard that name before," said Dan. "Didn’t he used to teach at St. Croix Tech.?" Yes," responded Holmes, "although it was under the name of David Harmon. He holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Germany. Harshreich is his real name. He left the college a few years ago and has been up to nothing but criminal evil ever since. We’ve tracked him through thefts of various kinds. He loves and steals jewels, expensive ones. There was even a murder we’re sure he planned, but we couldn’t prove it. Nothing seems beyond his dark plans, but this is the first time he’s tried something of this type." "We’ve long known of his anti-Jewish stand," said Watson. "Still, he’s never resorted to anti-Semitic graffiti on a stolen car. It doesn’t surprise me though. He’s filled with hatred." "Unfortunately he’s also brilliant, brilliantly evil," said Holmes. "The Richmont Police are good, but I think they will do even better than usual with you two helping, if you don’t mind, said Dan.

"We’ll be glad to do it," said Holmes. "We have an agreement with the college to handle anything involving students or employees for expenses only. If necessary, we’ll forgo that too. Knowing Harshreich, that will probably be necessary. He loves to flee to Europe. He has a lot of connections there. We’ll follow him if we can get a definite clue that proves that he’s the mind behind the deed and if we have some proof that he has followed his usual escape plan." "Mr. Holmes, this may sound silly to you, but I really don’t care about the thieves or the car that much. But I really would like to get the key ring back if possible," said Liz. "You see I put my mother’s wedding ring on with the keys after she and Dad died in the same year. It would mean a lot to me if you could get my ring back." She began to weep. "I’m sorry, but nothing in the world of possessions really matters to me very much, even if I do like to decorate. What matters to me are people, especially my family. Having that ring is like still having some contact with my parents. Please get it back if you can."

What Holmes had predicted did prove to be true. The local police caught the two supposed students who had stolen the car, covered it with graffiti, and then sent it flying into the utility pole. One of them finally did give up Harshreich as the mastermind. By that time, however, the evil mastermind had made his way to Austria. With Holmes and Watson knowing somewhere in Europe was probably his destination, they were not far behind.

They flew to Amsterdam and made contact with Interpol. Interpol had a lead that Harshreich had made his way to Austria, probably near Innsbruck. The two booked a room at an Innsbruck hotel. They planned their next move over lunch in the hotel dining room.

"We have nothing beyond the report that he was last seen in this area yesterday," said Holmes. "All I can think of is to pray and try to follow what he’s done before after a job." "That sounds like our best plan under the circumstances, Holmes. Criminal often fall into pattered behavior. He has often given himself a vacation after pulling of a crime. He very likely will be visiting tourist sights in the area for a few days before he moves on." "Right, but how can we know which sights to check. There are a lot of them around here."

Choosing where to start occupied the next few minutes. Holmes and Watson poured over a map of tourist sites they had obtained from the hotel desk. "Nothing looks more promising than the others, except, perhaps this one. Look, it has a small castle of mansion, a tour of the interior which includes a display of old family heirlooms and jewelry, and a beautiful surrounding garden." "It sound like something Harshreich would have designed himself to cover all of his favorite things." "Exactly my dear Watson. Let’s go, the game’s afoot."

Once they got to the mansion, they split up. Watson joined the guided tour of the interior while Holmes patrolled the grounds. Near the pond at the back of the mansion, he spotted his query. Harshreich had been convinced that he had eluded trackers as he almost always did. He did not even see the stealth Holmes until his form came hurtling through the air to down him with a great open field tackle. A wrestling match ensued. Harshreich was strong and had a litheness that belied his years. Still, he was no match for the much younger, stronger and highly trained Holmes. The detective had him on his face and was ready to apply handcuffs when he managed to wrench one hand free. He pulled the key ring from his pocket and shouted, "I know what you really came for," he shouted. With that he threw the key ring far out into the pond. Holmes left the criminal and did a quick surface dive into the pond.

Dr. Watson had spotted the struggle from a mansion window and came racing to help. However, before he could get there, Harshreich had managed to regain his feet and flee to the shelter of an outbuilding. He couldn’t get in, but he could hide around a corner where he spotted some flower pots, one sizable one was filled with soil. He pulled a small tape recorder from his pocket and pressed a button. Back at the shallow pond, Holmes had managed to retrieve the key ring. He had just come up for air when he heard an anguished cry from a small child. Watson had reached the far side of the pond. "Over there!" he said pointing to the outbuilding from which the sound seemed to come.

Holmes ran as quickly as one could through the waist deep water and raced toward the building as the cry was repeated. It sounded as though the child was truly in trouble. He ran at full speed around the corner of the building and directly into a painful sleep courtesy of a crash on his head from a heavy flower pot. By the time Watson had reached Holmes, Harshreich had made another clean escape. The doctor checked for a pulse and found one that seemed quite healthy. Holmes came back to the land of the conscious with a quick rising bump atop his head.

He knew that Harshreich was already beyond his reach once again. He raised the key ring for examination." "Well, you paid a price, but you got the key ring," said the doctor. "Yes, but as I expected, he left the wedding ring and removed the diamond." "Well, Liz will be happy to have the ring anyway, so we have a partial victory." "Yes, doctor, another partial victory. That’s all we’ve ever gotten against Harshreich." Then, seized by something that caused what was for Holmes a very unusual display of emotion, he stood. It was a slow movement since his head was throbbing. Then he raised a fist into the air and shouted, "We’ll get you, Harshreich!" The cry echoed off the mansion and the pond and seemed to travel to the mountains beyond. "So help us, God," added the doctor quietly.