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


“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. 


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 Sodden Sailor (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 11) by Frank W Butterfield


Sunday, February 6, 1955

It’s Sunday night and Nick has decided he wants to get back in the kitchen to make a couple of pans of lasagna for dinner, something he hasn’t done since he and Carter moved into the big pile of rocks on Nob Hill.

Captain Daniel O’Reilly, pilot of The Flirtatious Captain, is bringing a friend for dinner. Instead of his latest love interest, the captain introduces Nick and Carter to an old friend, a man who is on his last legs and who has a favor to ask: can Nick and Carter help him get his girl and her son out of Red China?

That’s where things begin but it’s far from where they end…


The sun had set when we headed out for dinner. We brought Captain O’Reilly and Murphy along with us. Since none of us knew where we were going, I stopped one of the bellboys and asked him about the place that Tony had said was at the end of the beach. He knew where it was and suggested we take a cab since it was after dark and we might get lost.

The cab driver dropped us off in front of an old wood-frame building that looked like it was falling apart. But there was some serious jazz coming from a jukebox inside and that immediately got Carter’s attention.

We walked in and found a mix of people and a lot of noise. No kids, which made sense. The place was more like a juke joint than a restaurant. Once I realized what kind of place it was, I relaxed a bit. There were couples in the life, here and there, but mostly it was either loud groups of sailors and marines in uniform or loud groups of fishermen or loud groups of women gathered together. They were all competing to be heard over the horn of Miles Davis. There was every color under the rainbow but one. The four of us stuck out like snowflakes.

Tony saw us, walked up, and hugged me. “Come on in.” He pulled me over to a table where a grinning Chinese man was holding an unlabeled beer bottle in one hand and chopsticks in the other. He was shoveling some sort of seafood into his mouth as fast as I’d ever seen anyone do.

“Lee, this is Nick.”

The man put down the chopsticks and the beer, swallowed, and wiped his hands on his grungy shirt. “How are ya, Nick?” He offered his hand, which I shook.

“Fine.” I pointed. “This is Carter. And Dan. And Johnny.” Everyone shook as Tony and I brought a couple of stools to the table.

“I didn’t know you’d be bringing friends.”

“They’re the reason we’re going to Hong Kong.” I had to shout to be heard.

Tony nodded. “Let’s eat and then we can all go for a walk on the beach and talk about whatever it is you’re doing.” Once again, I was struck by the hardness in his voice. I looked at his face and saw a grit and a determination I wasn’t expecting. I wondered about that.

. . .

Carter charmed a hamburger sandwich out of the cook by using his southern accent. The rest of us ate whatever Tony ordered for us. I had no idea what most of it was but one dish reminded me of the raw fish that John had made for us over on Kauai that was similar to a dish I’d had down in Mexico.

Lee pointed out that the food was a mix of different things: Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, even Korean. I liked it all. The beer was a local brew that didn’t seem to have a name. All I knew was that it was cold and went down smooth.

I paid for dinner but it came to less than twenty for all us so I added another twenty and we made our way down to the water. Once we were twenty or thirty feet away from the place, I finally felt like I could talk in a normal voice. There were a few couples sitting on the sand and necking. We made our way past them and to a spot where there were picnic tables and sat around one of those. We’d each brought a fresh bottle of beer. Lee produced a bottle opener and passed it around.

“Who makes this?” I asked.

Tony replied, “It’s a place up near where we went today. Not really legal. But it sure is good.”

I nodded. “It sure is.”

Tony got right to the point. “I brought Lee out so you could meet him. I get the feeling that you have some job you’re doing in Hong Kong that might not be on the up-and-up.”

I nodded, surprised for a third time at his change in demeanor. I put up my hand. “Wait. Before we go on, what is this?”

I could see his white teeth in the dark as he grinned. “What’s what?”

Carter asked, “Yeah. What is this?”

Tony took a chug of his beer and shrugged.

Lee answered. “Tony used to do some work for the O.S.S.”

Murphy slammed his hand on the table. “That’s where I recognize you from, isn’t it?”

Tony laughed. “Sure. I know you from working in Chungking.”

Murphy added, “And Canton.”

Tony nodded but didn’t say anything.

I asked, “Did this involve the Nationalists?”

They both said, “Yes,” in unison. They laughed and clinked their bottles together.

I asked Lee, “What about you?”

Tony said, “You’ll never get any answers from him.”

Lee took a swig of his beer and said, “I did my work for the Kuomintang. Lotta good it did ’em, but I did.”

O’Reilly reached over and clinked his bottle against Lee’s. “God bless the generalissimo.”

“Hear, hear,” echoed the other three.

. . .

Once O’Reilly had laid out the plan, I added my latest ideas. After some back and forth about the feasibility of it all, I asked Tony and Lee, “Are you two in?”

They both nodded. Someone had started a bonfire on the beach and I could see their faces in the firelight. They both looked tough. More than I would have expected.

“How much?” asked Lee.

“A hundred a day plus all expenses.” I replied.

He nodded. “Sounds good. When do we leave?”

“At 7 in the morning from the airport. Tony knows the plane. Bring your black tie, if you have it.”

Lee laughed. “The one called The Flying Fireman?”

I nodded and looked at Carter who shrugged.

“You a fireman?” asked Lee.

“He used to be,” I answered. “Don’t you—”

Carter put his hand over my mouth and said, “Just enjoy it, Nick.” He took his hand away and kissed me. I just nodded in agreement.

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Exclusive Excerpt: The Iniquitous Investigator (A Nick Williams Mystery Book 8) by Frank W Butterfield


Monday, July 5, 1954

Mildred’s Diner just isn’t the welcoming place it once was. Looking forward to a nice breakfast, including that chewy bacon that Nick and Carter both love, they’re asked to leave. Mildred has gone back to Texas and word is they “ain’t welcome.”

But it’s a sunny July day, so Nick puts the top down on the Roadmaster and they head across the Golden Gate to Sausalito for eggs, bacon, toast, and coffee. But it seems like trouble follows them along the way and, before they know it, Nick and Carter are sitting in jail for vagrancy.

After making bail, the whole team is on the job figuring what the heck is going on in sleepy Sausalito while also chasing down the missing Mildred, who may have been kidnapped or worse!


I stretched out on the cot and thought about the day. It had been rough, there was no doubt about it. As the sheriff’s deputies were leading us out of the courtroom, I saw my father looking shocked and upset. Lettie was holding his arm and whispering something. But, for the first time that I could remember, I felt an affection for the old man. I smiled and hoped he saw it.

I knew the worst that could happen is that we would do three months. I’d been in the Navy. I knew what it was like to be confined to small spaces. And the Marin County jail wasn’t San Quentin. It was smaller than the Dougherty County jail in Georgia had been. I’d been a guest of theirs for a couple of nights the year before.

I turned on my side and looked at the brick wall. It was faintly illuminated by a streetlight outside. There was a small window, covered with simple horizontal bars, that was about two feet square and that let me see the street outside. The cell was slightly above ground level. There was a warehouse across the street with a loading dock that had been busy at the end of the work day.

The clothes I’d been given included a thick cotton undershirt, a button-down denim shirt, and a pair of dungarees. I was allowed to keep my BVDs. The shoes I was wearing had obviously belonged to someone else. They didn’t have my size, so these were too big. They smelled. I had taken them off when I was led to my cell and had only put them back on when dinner was called.

All of Carter’s clothes were too small and that included his shoes. When we were walked into the small mess hall, or whatever they called it, he came in line with the men from his row of cells. I got a momentary glance at his feet and saw that he was walking on the heel of the shoe and that his feet stuck out about an inch.

My row was seated on a long bench in front of a long table. We sat in the order we were marched in. I was at one end of my side, since I was in the last cell of my row. The man next to me didn’t speak and neither did I.

Carter was on the other side of the table in the middle. I counted twelve men on his side. I tried to look down my row to count, but was called out to keep my head down when I did so. So, I followed instructions.

The man across from me looked like he was recovering from a bender. He was having a hard time eating anything but the soup.

The food was basic. There was a bowl of vegetable soup, a piece of bread with a small pat of butter, a surprisingly tender piece of boiled beef, and a pile of mushy boiled carrots. There was no salt or pepper to be tasted or to be had. The butter was the only flavoring of any sort. The food wasn’t horrible. It would do.

As I ate my soup, I managed a couple of glances at Carter. He smiled and I replied in kind. After dinner, I’d stayed in my cell stretched out on my cot, not sure what to do. At some point, Carter had walked up to the door and asked how I was doing. I sat up, he walked in, and sat down next to me. We sat there for a long time talking about childhood antics again, like we had in the Sausalito jail. At one point, he’d leaned into me. Even though there was no one around, I leaned back for a moment and then mentioned how we ought to be careful. He’d sighed and leaned away.

An officer came by and told Carter to get back to his cell for the nightly check and light’s out. As he left, I whispered, “I love you, Chief.” He smiled and only nodded in reply as the officer was standing outside waiting for him.

As I began to drift off, I could hear someone singing. I couldn’t quite catch the tune, but it continued until several voices began to protest. There was a sharp metal rap somewhere and suddenly everything was quiet.

. . .

At some point in the night, I woke up and relieved myself in the uncovered toilet. A roll of brown toilet paper sat on the floor next to the white porcelain base. The toilet was in the corner next to a small sink. There was a cake of rough soap on the sink’s small lip. I turned on the cold water tap, the only one available, and washed my hands. The soap stank of lye. It reminded me of the kind we’d made ourselves in New Guinea. I knew there was a county farm somewhere. I wondered if the prisoners made their own soap out there.

I sat back down on the bed and wished I had a cigarette. Everything had been taken from me when we were processed, including my beat-up old Zippo. For some reason, I was missing that more than anything.

My cot was pushed up against the wall. I pulled my feet up off floor and sat with my legs crossed. As I’d been doing since the hearing ended, I played the events in the courtroom in my head over and over again.

Obviously, O’Connor had been coached. His and Wildman’s testimony had been designed to match, point by point. O’Connor was just a good cop, doing a good job, according to the psychiatrist. Wildman was helping good cops do their best to deal with the intolerable problem of the male homosexual on the prowl. It was a situation that had to be dealt with. All reasonable men and women could see that was the case.

The judge was a piece of work. From his question about Uncle Paul, he’d made it clear where things was going. The stunt of making Kenneth ask to approach while Weissech just wandered around at will was one piece. The ridiculousness of the way he handled Weissech’s objections was another piece. I wondered, however, at the objections that Weissech didn’t make. I thought there might be a glimmer of hope there.

I was convinced that O’Connor had perjured himself. I had no proof, but he had to know who we were.

As he’d testified, I kept thinking about what Dawson had said. There was something wrong there. He’d been on the force for nineteen years and yet this Mountanos, this kid, was a shoe-in for police chief. I wondered what the real story was.

Wildman was definitely one of us. He might not have been in the life, but he was the very definition of a male homosexual. His idea about “cop as daddy” seemed to me to say more about him than anything else. What was the real nature of his relationship with O’Connor? The sergeant had something odd going on somewhere but I didn’t think he was one of us. Was O’Connor aware of this thing and trying to help the man, while also fixating on the man as his own kind of daddy? I didn’t think that made any sense. I was sure the doctor was the older man.

I wondered how I would fit into his analysis. I sure as hell had a disaffected relationship with my father. But I didn’t have time to form an unnatural attachment to my mother, since she left when I was only 7 years old. Of course, as had been pointed out to me, I tended to like other people’s mothers more than their own children did.

I was grateful for Lettie’s presence in my life. I’d known the woman just about a year and I considered her my mother, even if I still couldn’t bring myself to say that word. I had been deeply touched by the fact that Mrs. Jones had come back to San Francisco. I was captivated by Mrs. Kopek, who was a mother to not just Ike but just about any chickadee she might come across. She would have rescued half of Eastern Europe, given the chance.

Were these unnatural attachments? Or were they lines of affection, formed by circumstance and proximity? Was I disaffected from my father because I preferred the men in my life to be strong, kind, and loving and he was none of those? Or was it because there was something wrong with me? Or him? Or both?

I tended to take any psychological theory with a heave dose of salt. It never seemed to me that anything was just black or white.