Exclusive Excerpt: The Shifting Scion (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 27) by Frank W Butterfield

Excerpt:

“May I help you, gentlemen?” That was a rotund fellow of about 60. He was bald and had a pair of glasses perched on his head and another pair dangling over his chest on a silver chain. We were in a store by the name of The Old Book Shop. I held the lease on the place as I owned the apartment building above it. It was on the north side of Sutter, just a few feet west of Larkin.

Carter asked, “Do you have a copy of The Strength of the Strong by Jack London?”

“Of course.” He sized both of us up for a moment and then looked at me and asked, “Mr. Williams?”

I smiled. “Yes.”

He held out his pudgy hand. It was dry and soft as I shook it. “My name is Irwin Smith and I’m the proprietor. May I say how happy I am to finally meet my landlord?” He sounded sincere but I wasn’t sure.

I nodded. “Nice to meet you.” I gestured towards Carter. “This is—”

“Oh, Mr. Jones needs no introduction.” He offered his hand and reddened slightly when Carter shook with his right and then clasped the man’s hand with his left.

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Smith.”  

Taking a deep breath as if to steady his nerves, the older man said, “The pleasure is all mine.” He looked from Carter to me and then back to Carter. “You both look much more handsome than the newspapers could ever show.” Putting his left hand over his chest, just above the glasses dangling on the silver chain, he said, “I hope you don’t think I’m trying to take advantage of your presence, but I have something you might very well be interested in seeing.” He turned without waiting for either of us to reply and made his way into the back, motioning over his shoulder for us to follow him.

Behind a dark green curtain, we found a young man sitting on a stool, eating an egg salad sandwich while reading a thick book with yellowed pages and bound in dark-brown leather. The sandwich was wrapped in wax paper and he was carefully taking small bites from it. The book was laid out flat on the counter in front of him.

“Arthur!” said Mr. Smith, sounding a little irritated.

“Sorry, Mr. Smith,” said the kid as he quickly wrapped up his sandwich and stuffed it into a knapsack that was resting on the wood floor at the bottom of his stool. Having done that, he stood and realized we were standing there. His mouth suddenly dropped open as he appeared to recognize us.

“Arthur! Please attend to the front.”

The kid closed his mouth, nodded, and then slipped around Carter and was gone.

“I apologize,” said Mr. Smith as he removed the lid from one of a series of wood crates stacked one on another. “Arthur is very good with the books but rather lacks the kind of social skills one would desire in an antique book store. Now, here it is.” He stepped back so we could see what was in the top crate. “Have a look.”

Carter walked over and gasped. “Nick! Look!”

Scooting around him, I peered in. Several volumes of Jack London’s novels were lined up perfectly, held in place by tightly-packed straw and newspapers. The blue leather binding looked brand new. The book titles were printed on the spines in bright gold. I looked over at Mr. Smith. “Are these new?”

He beamed. “Quite to the contrary. When Mr. London was building his magnificent house up in Glen Ellen, a publisher in London approached him and requested permission to print all of his novels and short stories in a calf-leather binding. There were to be one hundred sets. However, the house burned to the ground, Mr. London died not long after, and only one set was ever produced. This is that set.”

Carter gently ran his finger over the spines and asked, “Where did you get them?”

“It’s quite unusual that they even exist. They sat in the publisher’s storage, in these very crates, for the longest time. The publisher went into receivership in 1935 and this was one of their assets, although no one in England thought much of an American author like Jack London.” He sniffed. “They didn’t sell at auction and the firm who was handling the disposition of assets just held onto them. Strangely, during the Blitz, one half of their building was destroyed, but since these were in the half that wasn’t touched, they were perfectly fine.” He smiled. “About six months ago, I received a letter from a gentleman at that firm, asking if I would be willing to take them on consignment, being an antique bookseller in Jack London’s hometown. I agreed, thinking of several good customers who might be interested. The set arrived on Monday. I haven’t made any calls so far. Something told me to wait. So, then, you both walk in, asking for one of the very books that the set contains. And, here we are…” He sighed and rested both of his hands on his belly, under the dangling glasses.

“How much?” I asked.

He leaned in towards the stack of crates and put on the pair of glasses that had been on his head. “Well, that is rather a difficult question to answer. You see—”

“Ten grand,” said Carter.

The man gasped. “Well… I don’t…” He took out his handkerchief and began to wipe his face.

Carter pulled out his wallet, asking, “Will you take a check?”

“Oh, my…” The man’s eyes rolled into the back of his head as he slid down to the floor faster than Carter could catch him. 

Blurb:

Thursday, October 18, 1962

Nick is in trouble. He’s obstructing justice and might possibly be an accessory to murder, after the fact. The cops are on to him and his lawyer is very concerned.

How did this happen?

It’s all because Sam Halverson, a close friend and an operative for WilliamsJones Security, has murdered a man and is on his way to Mexico to hide out from the law.

At Nick’s instruction… Oh, boy!

Meanwhile, Nick’s latest attempt at matchmaking appears to be falling apart. It seemed like such a perfect pairing but, apparently, the prospective couple won’t be living happily ever after.

Will justice (and love) prevail?

Find out in this, the second book in a three-part story arc (beginning with The Derelict Dad), that’s all about what happens when a father, who has abandoned his family to find his fortune, finally has to come to terms with his past.

More about author Frank W. Butterfield:

Frank W. Butterfield is the Amazon best-selling author of over 20 books and counting in the Nick Williams Mystery series, stories about Nick & Carter, a private dick and a fireman who live and love in San Francisco.

To learn more about Frank W. Butterfield’s novels, Nick & Carter and their ongoing adventures, click on the link for his website. https://www.frankwbutterfield.com/


Exclusive Excerpt: The Lawyer Who Leapt (Daytona Beach Book 2) by Frank W. Butterfield

Excerpt:

“Do you have any idea where the place is?” asked Ronnie as he worked at keeping the car on the road. As if from out of nowhere, the wind had kicked up and was blowing Tom’s Buick around the road a bit.

“The judge said they moved the law school out to the airport. I don’t know where, exactly, but it shouldn’t be that hard to find.” He paused and then added, “Howie sent a telegram this morning from Savannah.”

Ronnie whistled. “That was fast. Everything OK?”

“Sounded like it. He mentioned he was keeping his promise to send us one every day.”

Ronnie nodded. “He’s a good kid.”

“He sure is,” said Tom.

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Ronnie burped. “Sorry ’bout that. I shouldn’t have had onions on my burger back at lunch. They always repeat on me.” He burped again.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Tom look over at him and smile. “You know, you always say that every time you have onions on anything. But you always have onions.”

Ronnie grinned. He wanted to reach over and put his hand on Tom’s face and pull his pal in close, but he had to keep both hands on the wheel to make sure they stayed on the road. He glanced over and quickly winked at Tom, who blushed.

Neither man said anything for a moment. Then Ronnie asked, “Is that why you love me?”

Tom stiffened, or so Ronnie thought.

. . .

“Is that why you love me?”

Tom could barely believe what he was hearing. How could Ronnie ask him a question like that at a time like this? Tom was doing the best he could to hold his reputation together. Witness tampering was a serious offense and he was looking at serious prison time if he was convicted on the hearsay rumors floating around town that he’d sent Inez Johnson back to New York by bribing her, or whatever they were saying.

He had enough to think about without worrying what Ronnie was going to do next. His friend had always been impulsive. That was what made him so attractive, besides the fact that he was handsome, in an odd sort of way, and was thickly built with plenty of muscles popping out everywhere, something Tom always found attractive in a man.

Staring out at the ribbon of highway that was passing below them in the wind-blown car, Tom thought about their time together the night before and how passionate things had been. That was another thing that attracted him to Ronnie. The man was relaxed when it came to carnal matters. He was friendly and passionate and gentle, while also being driven and almost single-minded in his desire to know that Tom was enjoying himself. It had always been that way.

In the few encounters of a similar nature that Tom had during his time in the Army, he’d been shocked at how selfish other men could be. They seemed to want to be satisfied but had no interest in the sort of quiet conversation intermingled with passionate lovemaking that Tom had always loved having with Ronnie and Sarah, both.

Sarah.

What would she think if she knew what they got up to in the bed she had slept in before she died? Would she be repelled? Disgusted?

Ronnie claimed that she had given her blessing to their fooling around. And, on those nights when she wasn’t home, having taken Missy over to the Gulf Coast to spend a few days with relatives who didn’t like Tom, he and Ronnie would fool around in that bed. But they had never slept together. And Tom had always made sure to change the sheets before Sarah got home.

He couldn’t really imagine the conversation she had with Ronnie about all that. He’d claimed that she’d invited him over for dinner and, while drinking beer, had admitted she knew all about how they felt about each other. He even claimed, Ronnie had, that she had blessed their fooling around.

Tom sighed. He wavered back and forth about whether to believe Ronnie on that score. It seemed both highly unlikely and exactly what Sarah would have done. There had been a number of occasions, during their marriage, when she had kindly sat down with him and told him she knew what he was up to and it didn’t bother her at all. He couldn’t remember the specific things—they had all been small, household sorts of things—but he could easily picture her open and frank expression as she looked right at Ronnie and said something like, “I know you’re in love with Tom as much as I am.”

The sudden intensity of that thought shocked him. Of course she had said that to Ronnie. He didn’t know how he knew, but he did. He could feel in it his bones. Over the sound of the tires on the road and the slight moaning of the wind as it buffeted the car around, he could hear her next sentence, “And I know Tom loves you in a way he could never love me.”

That thought made him jump in his seat.

“You OK, buddy?”

Blurb:

It’s Wednesday morning, September 24th to be precise, and Tom Jarrell is in love. He’s walking through the tree-covered streets of Daytona Beach, on his way to work, and thinking about the wonderful night he just spent. But, when he gets to the office, he realizes he has a few things that need to be done. For one, he needs to file an affidavit in a murder trial, but he’s never done any such thing, so he heads off to his old law school to meet with his favorite professor from before the war to get some much-needed advice. And, while there, he gets much more than he was expecting. Meanwhile, Ronnie Grisham is in trouble with his landlady. He hasn’t slept in his boarding house bed for two nights and she just read her cards last night. Change is coming. Could the cards be pointing to Ronnie? As for Marveen Dodge, her suspicions about what is really going on at the law office of Tom Jarrell, Esquire, is like a simmering pot that could boil over at any moment. And, Alice Watson is doing just fine, thank you very much, and looking forward to a nice Saturday at the beach with her girl. But, none of them expects what happens next as two mysterious girls arrive in town, suitcases in hand… And an unexpected trial gets underway… Read about all of this, and more, in the case of THE LAWYER WHO LEAPT.

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Author Frank W. Butterfield:

Frank W. Butterfield is the Amazon best-selling author of over 20 books and counting in the Nick Williams Mystery series, stories about Nick & Carter, a private dick and a fireman who live and love in San Francisco.

Beginning in 1953, the series follows their adventures as they deal with the wide-ranging consequences of publicly outing themselves long before the term existed.

Refusing to back down, Nick & Carter begin to build a life where they use their resources to help their family as much as they possibly can.

For Nick & Carter, family is a broad term that includes the ones they were both born into as well as the one they choose: the men and women they know, meet, and grow closer to along the way.

Their stories range from the deeply intimate to the broadly political as they move through the changes in American and global culture from the stultifying sameness of the 50s through the tumultuous transformation of the 60s and the chaotic confusion of the 70s.

As time rolls by and their love deepens, they eventually find themselves able to legally marry in the summer of 2008 at the ages of 84 and 86, respectively.

No one will be as surprised as Nick & Carter when that amazing day finally arrives.

To learn more about Frank W. Butterfield’s novels, Nick & Carter and their ongoing adventures, please click the link before for his website.

https://www.frankwbutterfield.com/

Exclusive Excerpt: The Constant Caprese (a Nick Williams Mystery; Book 20) by Frank W. Butterfield

Exclusive Excerpt:

Right then, we were about fifty feet from the bottom of the hill where Via Libertá ended. The road was at its steepest and we were walking slowly since we couldn’t see. A flash of headlights ran across the far wall of the restaurant that we’d passed earlier in the day. I let go of Carter’s arm. We’d been walking in the stone-paved roadway and both jumped up on the sidewalk to get out of the way.

After about half a minute, I could hear a car coming down the hill very slowly. As it got close to us, it slowed down to a crawl. A voice called out, “Signor Williams?”

“Yes?” I replied without turning to look at the car, since it was following us and the headlights were just behind us. I knew I wouldn’t be able to see anyone without getting blinded.

The voice asked, “Will you give me your boat?”

I sighed. I wondered how to play the situation.

Suddenly, I had it. “Sure. Come by the marina at 10 in the morning. That’ll give us time to get our stuff out.” That was a lie. We would be on our way by 7 in the morning, at the latest, and they would be sadly disappointed when they arrived at the marina. Or so I hoped.

“Then where will you go?”

“We’ll take the ferry to Naples and fly back to France from there.”

“Good. Thank you for your assistance.”

I snorted but didn’t say anything. The voice said something short and to the point in Italian. With that, the car bolted forward and squealed down the hill and around the corner, heading right, and was gone.

. . .

As we walked up to where the sailboat was docked, I noticed that Captain O’Reilly and John Murphy were both in their cabin and all the lights were out except for one in our cabin.

Carter whispered, “Let’s take off our shoes.”

I snorted quietly. “Good idea. I don’t wanna get a talkin-to in the morning.”

We both removed our shoes and carried them as we walked aboard. Slowly padding along, we quietly walked into our cabin. Carter leaned over, as usual, and then collapsed onto the bed, making the boat rock a little as he did.

I carefully closed the door behind me and stood right there, with my back against it, and looked over at Carter. His legs were spread apart and he was yawning, his head tilted back with his left hand over his mouth while he propped himself up with his right.

I could feel myself getting more flushed and excited than I ever could remember. I ran my eyes up from his socked feet, along the length of his thickly-muscled legs that were, as always when he sat, stretching the fabric of his trousers, and then stopped at his crotch. I could feel myself breathing heavily, almost panting. The warm feeling I’d been having since before dinner was spreading and getting stronger and more urgent.

Looking up, I felt myself blush furiously when I saw that he was watching me. His emerald green eyes were bright and wide. And, as I looked at him, the ruddiness in his face deepened darker than I could ever remember seeing it before.

We stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. Then, before I knew what I was doing, I found myself slowly undressing right where I stood, allowing Carter to enjoy the sight.

Blurb:

Tuesday, September 10, 1957

Nick and Carter have left Nice and, after sailing down the Italian coast, have dropped anchor at the island of Procida, just across the bay from the Naples coast.

Nick, as he is wont to do, meets the one homosexual who works at the local post office and, in short order, is invited to dinner along with Carter to meet the entire family. Italians, after all, are so friendly!

Meanwhile, Lord Gerald, their friend in British intelligence, has sent a cryptic telegram asking them to take a package over to Capri, an island on the far side of the Bay of Naples.

When they dock at Capri the next morning, they find a dying duke, an eccentric earl, and a vigilant viscount all living together in a glorious villa dating back to the turn of the century. These are the final remnants of the once-thriving community of homosexual Englishmen who made the Italian island their sanctuary where they could live in peace as themselves.

But is someone haunting this idyllic Mediterranean paradise? Who cut the phone line for no apparent reason? Who opened the locked door and then unlocked it again? Who is playing pranks with the plumbing? Maybe these are all just coincidences… Or maybe there is something more sinister afoot…

Come sail away with Nick and Carter to the Island of Capri and find out!

Click on photo to go to Frank’s website!

YOU CAN WIN THIS BOOK – FREE!  Continuing our 5-Year Anniversary Celebration of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Facebook Group – Details coming soon, so stay tuned! 

To learn more Frank W. Butterfield, just click on his photo.

Exclusive Excerpt: The Leaping Lord (a Nick Williams Mystery; Book 19) by Frank W. Butterfield

Excerpt:

As we walked through the gardens, we came around a bend. Suddenly the sea was stretched out in full view. Carter took a deep breath and asked, “Never gets old, does it?”

“Nope. As much as I miss sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge, this view always gets to me.”

Carter rested his hand on my shoulder for a long moment. It was a Tuesday afternoon. There was no one around. I was tempted to turn and kiss him, but something told me not to. Moving his hand to my neck, Carter led me to a bench that was a prime spot for gazing out over the water.

We both sat. I scooted a little closer to him than I normally would in public. I had a strong desire to be held in his arms but I knew we would have to wait until we got home where we had our own private view.

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We sat there, neither speaking, for several minutes. I was about to nod off when I heard someone off in the distance. Carter, who had put his hand on my knee, removed it and scooted away an inch or two.

I could hear what sounded like four or five people moving in our direction. No one was talking but they weren’t trying to be stealthy. It sounded like they were walking through the woods that bordered the grassy areas.

As I was about to turn and see who it was, I heard an oddly familiar female voice ask, “Quite a view, isn’t it?”

I heard Carter gasp as I turned to look. We both jumped to our feet. I tried not to gape. She was more beautiful in person than she’d ever been on the screen. My first thought was that motherhood agreed with her. She looked softer and less angular than in the movies.

She was wearing a blue dress that ended just below her knees. Over that, she sported a light blue coat whose cuffs ended in the middle of her forearms. Small white gloves and a strand of pearls completed the look. Her blonde hair was perfectly held in place under a small periwinkle hat pinned in place. She appeared very comfortable and beautiful, all at the same time.

She smiled at me and tilted her blonde head. Offering her gloved hand, she asked, “Mr. Williams?”

I shook and nodded. “Yes, Your…” I didn’t know the word.

“Serene Highness,” prompted Carter.

She nodded and offered her hand to him. “Mr. Jones?”

He gently shook and bowed slightly. “Yes, Your Serene Highness.”

Once that was done, she looked out at the water below. “I’m always a bit surprised every morning when I see that blue water.” Turning to me, she said, “I’m sure you must feel the same.”

I nodded, remembering to breathe, and quoted Carter, unable to think of anything else. “It never gets old.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

We stood there for what seemed like a long moment. Finally, Carter asked, “How is Princess Caroline?”

She beamed at the name of her daughter. “Very well, thank you. She’s growing so fast. I can’t believe it sometimes. She’ll be seven months old in a week.”

We both nodded but neither of us replied. Finally, I came to my senses and asked, “Is there something we can help you with, Your Serene Highness?”

She laughed. “Please, when we’re alone, do call me Grace.”

I smiled. “I’m Nick and that’s Carter.”

Blurb – The Leaping Lord by Frank W. Butterfield: 

Tuesday, August 13, 1957 Life is good. Nick and Carter are living on the French Riviera, having breakfast by the pool every morning with a view of the Mediterranean, and living a quiet life after a busy month. The grand re-opening of Nick’s latest acquisition, l’Hôtel Beau Rivage, the hottest spot in Nice, has gone off without a hitch. And, best of all, Nick has recovered nicely after taking a bullet in his shoulder. But then, on the same day, they have not one, but two unexpected encounters with the aristocracy. A day of driving down the coast leads to an amiable but unusual request from the former Grace Kelly, now Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco. Nick is suspicious of the favor she’s asked but he’s also smitten with the gorgeous blonde who lives in the Prince’s Palace just a few miles down the coast. Carter, of course, can’t help but tease Nick about losing his heart to movie-star royalty. Later that evening, Nick and Carter are invited to an impromptu dinner with Her Grace, the Duchess of Boston. She happens to be the mother of the British spy who has been helping Nick and Carter stay out of trouble for the past couple of years. Her son, Lord Gerald Whitcombe, left London for Nice back in July but has since disappeared. The duchess is convinced that the two of them are the only ones who can find him. What follows is a race against time that leads Nick and Carter back to Paris where they find that things are not exactly how they left them.

Blurb:

Tuesday, August 13, 1957

Life is good. Nick and Carter are living on the French Riviera, having breakfast by the pool every morning with a view of the Mediterranean, and living a quiet life after a busy month. The grand re-opening of Nick’s latest acquisition, l’Hôtel Beau Rivage, the hottest spot in Nice, has gone off without a hitch. And, best of all, Nick has recovered nicely after taking a bullet in his shoulder.

But then, on the same day, they have not one, but two unexpected encounters with the aristocracy.

A day of driving down the coast leads to an amiable but unusual request from the former Grace Kelly, now Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco. Nick is suspicious of the favor she’s asked but he’s also smitten with the gorgeous blonde who lives in the Prince’s Palace just a few miles down the coast. Carter, of course, can’t help but tease Nick about losing his heart to movie-star royalty.

Later that evening, Nick and Carter are invited to an impromptu dinner with Her Grace, the Duchess of Boston. She happens to be the mother of the British spy who has been helping Nick and Carter stay out of trouble for the past couple of years. Her son, Lord Gerald Whitcombe, left London for Nice back in July but has since disappeared. The duchess is convinced that the two of them are the only ones who can find him.

What follows is a race against time that leads Nick and Carter back to Paris where they find that things are not exactly how they left them.

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Like what you read? Your chance is coming soon to WIN FREE another Nick Williams Mystery via our 5-Year Anniversary Give-A-Way celebration – posting later this week, so stay tuned!

To discover more about Frank and his books, just click on the link below:

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Exclusive Excerpt: A Happy Holiday (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 17) by Frank W. Butterfield

Blurb:

Monday, December 19, 1955

It’s early in the morning and Carter is worried that he and Nick won’t be warm enough for their Christmas trip to Vermont.

Nick, for his part, is wondering if they will ever be able to return to the big pile of rocks he’s finally come to love. An exile in France isn’t the worst thing in the world but still…

But before they can get much more than halfway from San Francisco to Vermont, they discover that the mob is after them and is on their tails, chasing them across the country as they take planes, trains, and automobiles.

They finally get to Vermont, all covered in freshly-fallen white snow, and begin to wonder if it will be their last Christmas, after all.

Excerpt:

“Nick.”

I opened my eyes. The room was dark but there was a bit of street light coming in around the edges of the curtains. Carter was standing next to the bed, looking down at me with a grin.

“Time to get up.”

I groaned. “I don’t wanna.”

“I know, son. You can sleep in the car.”

With that, he pulled back the covers. The room was chilly and I just wanted to go back to sleep.

“Come on,” he said, pulling on my arm.

I stood up and hugged him. “This is one of those times when I wish we were there already.”

“Where?” he asked as he ran his hands over the back of my head.

“Paris.”

He didn’t say anything for a while. As we stood there in the dark, I could feel myself getting sleepy again.

Finally, he said, “We could take a plane from here to New York. We don’t have to go to Vermont.”

“Is that what you want?”

“No. I wanna have Christmas with all our family.”

“Even Roger?”

He laughed. “Yes, even Roger. I changed my mind about him at dinner last night.”

I sighed. “Me, too. I love him. And John, too.”

“It would break my mama’s heart if you weren’t there for Christmas.”

I sighed again. “She loves you, too.”

“Yeah.” He didn’t sound convinced.

 

Exclusive Excerpt: The Pitiful Player by Frank W Butterfield (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 14)

Kindle: http://amzn.to/2eT0hX5

Blurb:

Friday, July 8, 1955

Ben White, a movie producer working on Nick’s dime, is ready to show off what he’s been up to, so Nick and Carter head to Hollywood to see what there is to see and, to be polite, it stinks.

Ben’s director has an idea and he says it’s gonna make Nick even richer than he already is.

But, before they can start the cameras rolling, leading man William Fraser is found murdered at the lavish Beverly Hills mansion of seductive silent screen star Juan Zane. Carlo Martinelli, Ben’s lover, is arrested and charged with murder even though everyone in town knows he’s innocent, including the District Attorney.

Meanwhile, the Beverly Hills Police Chief makes sure that Nick knows that his kind of help isn’t wanted in the posh village, home to some of Hollywood’s most famous stars. The chief is running a good, clean, wholesome town, after all.

From Muscle Beach to Mulholland Drive, Nick and Carter begin to piece together the clues that point to who did it and why. Somehow they manage to do so in the sweltering heat and noxious smog of the Southland.

In the end, however, will anyone be brought to justice? It’s Hollywood, so you’ll have to wait for the final reel to find out.

Excerpt:

“Nick, wake up.”

I opened my eyes. I could see a shadow hovering above me. I reached up and felt Carter’s stubble-covered face. “What?”

“Ben just called. Greg and Micky got into a fight. Greg broke Micky’s nose and dislocated his shoulder. They’re all at the hospital. Ben wants us to come down.” He reached down and kissed me. “What were you dreaming about?”

I sighed. “Something about Liz and dessert.”

“Liz who? Liz Taylor? Are you dreaming about Hollywood?”

I laughed as he kissed me again. “No. Much bigger. Liz as in Queen Elizabeth.”

Carter nibbled on my left ear. He whispered, “She doesn’t look like a Liz. She looks like a Betty.”

I put my arms around his neck. “We need to get up. Ben needs us.”

Carter sighed and said, “I know.” He kissed my forehead.

“Why didn’t I hear the phone?”

“I was already awake when it rang.”

“You were?”

“Yes. That kid was in the swimming pool. I heard him splashing around. Buck naked, too.”

I laughed. “You know you’re not his type, right?”

Carter kissed my lips. “You saw that, huh?”

“You bet. I saw you running your eyes over his body. And I know why.”

“Why?” asked Carter as he ran his right hand along my face.

“He’s not the one you have a crush on. It’s his motorcycle.”

Carter laughed. “You’re right, Nick. When you’re right, you’re right.”

“Why haven’t you bought one since we were in Georgia?” He’d had an Indian motorcycle while we were on a case, investigating his father’s murder, in Albany, Georgia, back in the summer of ’53.

“It’s one thing to run around on a motorcycle in the backwoods of Georgia. It’s a whole other thing to go up and down California Street. Every time I’ve thought about it, all I can imagine myself doing is driving around and around Huntington Park. That would get boring after a while.”

“It’s mostly flat around here.”

“It’s not just the hills. It’s also the traffic.”

“We have to go, Carter.”

“I know,” he sighed. “Just five more minutes. They’ll wait.”

I said, “Fine,” and pulled him down on me.