Sam Markum ducked under an awning in front of a cannabis shop on North Palm Canyon Drive just as another January downpour hit the street. He was in a vintage Burberry khaki trench coat and sported a brown trilby hat cocked to one side and pulled low over his left eye. It was 12:50 and those who passed him thought he might be going to some sort of fancy dress party or possibly someone who needed professional help. Sam didn’t care, the coat kept him dry while those who hadn’t adjusted to the idea that Palm Springs, California was no longer a desert walked around soaked to the skin. As with so many storms that hit the western coast of America these days the deluge came in waves of heavy rain with lightning and thunder followed by periods of light drizzle and Sam knew this particular opening of the heavens would pass in a few minutes. As he watched the traffic on the street pass by he reached inside his coat and adjusted the pulse pistol tucked in its holster just under his left arm. He wasn’t a violent man but the pistol had saved his skin more than once while working a case. He kept his five foot eight inch forty-two year old frame well-toned and combined with his stunning deep-set blue eyes and jet black hair he was a very attractive man. He wasn’t vain but did enjoy the attention he often received when out and about in this Southern California oasis. Although his clothes were clean he was often disheveled and friends told him on more than one occasion he looked like an unmade bed. It didn’t bother him and to his mind he thought the look helped in his profession.
In this, the year 2077, Sam’s choice of anachronistic clothing was just one of the many things that some saw as outdated. Sam was a PI or private investigator and his cases were, for the most part, as conventional as his wardrobe was not. He spied on wandering spouses, heterosexual and same sex, which usually revolved around the question of who was doing what to whom. He had been in the business for so long he could usually tell when, where and how he would get the hard evidence needed to pass along to the injured party. He also had a lucrative business consulting about security and improved theft prevention. There were cases, however, that often defied description and the one he had just been called in on was one. Missing persons weren’t new to Sam but he was intrigued by the call he had gotten earlier in the morning. A man named Elliot Duval wanted Sam to investigate the abduction of his husband who had been missing for almost three days. Mr. Duval told Sam he even knew how his husband, Michael Towson, had been taken. The police had dismissed his claims and would not follow-up with an investigation and he asked Sam to come right over and help him get his husband back. Sam agreed to meet that afternoon because he wanted to know more about a case that seemed on the face of it easy to solve.
With a crack of thunder and an explosive display of lightning the rain began to ease up and Sam started walking north toward the address given by Mr. Duval. 777 North Palm Canyon had once been a two story office and retail complex but in 2046 it was replaced by a thirty story condominium tower with expensive shops and restaurants on the ground floor and luxurious residences above. Mr. Duval’s flat was one of two penthouses located on the top floor. Sam arrived at the Tamarisk Tower and walked through the covered passageway with shops on either side to the lobby of the condominium tower. He was shaking the water off his hat as the tall, husky uniformed door man greeted him by tipping his hat and asking,
“May I help you?”
“I’m Sam Markum and have an appointment with Mr. Duval in 3001.”
“If you would go over to the concierge desk he will be happy to help you.”
At the desk Sam was greeted by a very handsome man in his late thirty’s with a thatch of dirty blonde hair and deep set brown eyes. He was dressed in the latest fashion of snug knee length shorts sporting a splashy print topped with a short sleeved silk shirt open at the collar. As Sam cast an appreciative eye over the tight body and delightfully rounded buns the concierge addressed him.
“Mr. Duval is expecting you. Are you here to help? I certainly hope so. Ellie’s been so upset since Mikey went missing. In truth we all are. You may go right up and I’ll be here when you’re finished if you need anything. I’m Jamie, by the way.” he said with a wink and a smile.
Sam turned away from the desk with a smile on his lips and stepped into the well-appointed lift. He was quickly on the thirtieth floor and knocking on Mr. Duval’s door.
The door was opened and there before him was his new client. Mr. Duval was five feet eight inches tall with a slender almost waif-like appearance and he couldn’t have weighed more than one hundred forty pounds. He was about twenty-seven years old with light brown hair that was perfectly groomed and dark brown eyes that were almost piercing as he looked Sam up and down with a languorous gaze that Sam took in as he looked at the man. He was dressed in tight tan trousers and a blousy flowing open necked deep blue linen shirt with a chartreuse green silk scarf wrapped loosely around his neck. The only jewelry he wore was a large chronograph-comm on his left wrist. His eyes finally settled on Sam’s and he broke into a broad, almost inviting, smile.
“Mr. Markum I’m so glad you were able to come over so quickly.” He was ushered into the foyer which led into the expansive living room with a spectacular south facing aspect that would have had wonderful views of the mountains to the right and left if the clouds weren’t hanging so low to the ground. As he entered the living room he was overwhelmed by the extravagance of the antique furniture on display. The flooring was white on white terrazzo with brilliantly colored Nichols and Fetti wool rugs throughout. The sofa and matching chairs facing the expanse of windows were upholstered in violet mohair with a matching set of Ruhlman Macassar wood tables. The other furniture around the room was a well edited collection of Mies van der Rohe, Eileen Grey, Le Corbusier and Ray and Charles Eames. The wall behind him was adorned with an oil painting in the contructivism style by the renowned Hungarian artist Bela Kadar.
“Have a seat Mr. Markum; would you like something to drink? A cigarette, perhaps?”
“No thank you, I can’t help but admire your collection. Antiques like these are so hard to find these days. You two must have spent years looking for just the right pieces.” Sam said as he took a seat in one of the chairs next to the sofa.
“Oh, my I wouldn’t know. All this was here when I moved in two years ago. Michael loves to collect and he’s responsible for all this. I have a small study off the hall I’ve done up in 21st century Mid-American funk which I think is just as nice.”
Elliott had been fluttering around the room straightening nick-knacks and trying not to look as excited as he was. He moved from one table to another and from one upholstered piece to another. Sam sat quietly and watched the nervous man move around the room and observed how his unease was made more evident with each small flick of his wrists. Finally, he adjusted his scarf and sat down on the sofa next to Sam. “Mr. Duval tell me about the night Mr. Towson disappeared.”
Alien abductions. Mysterious lightning storms. A handsome concierge and a suave private investigator. In the near future, Palm Springs becomes the center for a murderous gang intent on blackmail and money. Using an advanced technology, no one is safe from their nefarious actions.
Sam is called by Elliott Duval to find his husband who was abducted three days before. The police don’t believe his story and Sam is his only hope. Through clever undercover work and deft research Sam and his team embark on a bizarre trail leading to an unexpected resolution.
Author T. Lawton Carney Bio:
Tom’s undergraduate studies were at the University of Tennessee, majoring in English Literature, and he is the published author of three highly successful books on the business of interior design under the name of Thomas L. Williams. Tom has also contributed to the premier issue of the Santa Barbara Literary Journal and co-written interior design forecast pieces and written for local and regional newspapers.
Tom’s mother sparked an interest in Sci-Fi when he was just six years old and took him to the neighborhood library to introduce him to Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and his early favorite, the Tom Swift, Jr. series. His love of optimistic portrayals of research and discovery in a futuristic setting have taken him to all parts of the universe. His own writing ranges from galactic adventure in the far future to a near future murder mystery series featuring Sam Markum. The Markum series brings the glamour and intrigue of the 1930’s to a late 21st century future with all the action and adventure one would expect from a suave private eye.
It was the supportive writing course at the Palm Springs LGBT center that first took Mr. Williams writing into Sci-Fi. The moderator of the group, successful author David Wallace, helped Tom discover the inner fantasy-fiction writer he is today. Tom embraces the concept of a future in which all mankind is the beneficiary of the exploration that will take us to the moon, the planets and ultimately the stars.
Tom, and his husband Robert, have lived on the East Coast of the United States, London, England, Carmel, California and now Palm Springs, California. They have traveled extensively and enjoy a wide range of interests.