Marty McLamb felt good on this morning in summer. He stretched and yawned, then bounced out of bed. After more pandiculation,
Marty looked out the window. The cerulean sky greeted him in the aftermath of the thunderstorm the previous night. With
another oscitancy, Marty swallowed the air. The fresh air kissed his lentigenous face, cooled his snoached nostrils, and
touseled his copper blond hair.
The thought of another day with his bosom buddy, Jeff Garrett exhilerated Marty.
Marty used to be painfully shy, especially after last year when his father died, but the local agency provided him with an
adult maile. This "Big Brother" had encouraged him to partake in the social bonding so essential for success in
a camplex society.
Marty left the bedroom in his pyjamas to wash up in the bathroom. The smell of his mother's
cooking wafted up the stairs. Apparently his mother's sensitive ears had detected his footfalls.
she called from the nullpost. "Do you want toast?"
He answered affirmatively as he passed the top of
the the stairs. Soon he was strolling to Jeff's house. He sat down on the stoop and waited for his friend. Jeff was also
a ruddy blond, only his hair was darker.
Jeff came to the screen door. "My mother just gave me permission
to go to my great grandmother's house to get some balls."
Marty's eyes lit up. "How far is it to walk?"
Jeff paused. "We'd better go on bicycle. It's four kilometers from here."
Note: When I began writing these mysteries in 1977, I'd assumed that the United States would have converted to the metric
system by now. I refuse to return to a system using the body measurements of King Henry II (1154-89), the paces of a Roman
soldier, and the area of the daily plowing of oxen.
Three kilometers in the same direction sat my own and new property. Late in 1993, I bought the house next to my residence,.
I convered the original house, a bungalow, into an office. I had been seeking to sell the bungalow, but the market was too
flat. When the Cape Cod next door went up for sale, I used the bungalow for collateral.
Keith Cahill, a cute, little
guy I had met in 1986 in Wilkes-Barre, now occupied the bungalow. He had returned fort Iowa State University for the summer.
Although he was seeking to become a writer, he served well as my assitant.
It was a Monday afternoon, the last in
June. Keith was minding my business while I was running errands. A blue truck pulled into the parkinglot, and out stepped
a similarly dark, little guy. He stepped out of the cab, looked around with disgust, and took a last drag on his cigarette.
He slung the lit stick onto the concrete, closed the door of the cab, and walked toward the building. He knocked on the
door of my office, and Keith invited him in. The two little guys looked alike.
"Is George Krol here?"
is his office. I am his assistant. May I help you?"
"I am a client. The name's Norman Bacynski. George prepared
my taxes last March. I need his help. I just came into some money, and I am inquiring into the tax consequences."
is on some errands right now. If you leave the information, he'll get back to you when he returns," Keith answered.
"When do you expect him back?" Norm inquired somewhat impatiently.
"Any minute now," Keith smiled,
revealing the gelasins in his rosy cheeks.
"Do you mind if I smoke?" Norm asked.
"No," Keith assured.
"It will give me an excuse for a few drags myself."
Just then, Jeff Garrett burst into the room. Both men were momentarily taken aback. The ruddy boy looked around, then faced
the two men. "Where may I find George Krol, sirs?"
Norm and Keith just looked at each other. "Why
do you want Mr. Krol?" Keith interrogated the boy.
"Marty asked me to summon him," Jeff answered. "I've
never met the man."
Norm and Keith looked at each other again while they stole drags. The smoke curled among the
cerebration. Both knew that Marty McLamb was my "little brother" since September.
"Would Marty mind
if I came along instead of Mr Krol?" Keith proposed gently.
"Make that we -- I'm intrigued," Norm added.
"Well," Jeff paused. "If Mr. Krol is not available, I suppose any adult will do."
leave George a note," Keith decided. "What is you name, son, and where are we going?"
to the house of my great grandmother. I'll give you the address."
Imagine my surprise when I returnied to my office to find no one there, and my assistant and a client on a chase! I took
the address off the note and drove to the house.
It was a small, three-bedroom house in the middle of the woods and within
walking distance of my properties. Subsequently, I learned that Jeff's great grandmother had gone to a nursing home, leaving
the house peopleless.
When i arrived, a found a strange truck and two bicycles in front of the house. I rang the doorbell,
but no one answered. Finally, I went inside and called names. I found Marty in the cellar with his buddies and with mine.
"What gives, Marty?" I questioned as I descended the stairs.
"Can you smell this cellar?" Marty
I sniffed to the confusion of Keith and Norm. "You're right, son. I smell marijuana and crack."
Keith flashed his gelasins. "Now you know why I trust him with my life."
Norm only shook his head.
"My great grandmother went to the hospital last October," Jeff informed us as we sat in the kitchen. "Then
she went to a gerontocomium in December."
"What's that?" Norm asked.
"A fancy name for a nursing
horm,: Keith replied as they dragged on cigarettes.
"So the place has been devoid of humans -- legitimate human influence,"
I concluded. "Since December, someone must be taking advantage of the situation."
"But the neighbors have
been watching the house," Jeff protested.
"I don't doubt it," I assured. "But in this area of State
College, it is difficult to keep the criminal element away. Someone is using this place as a crack house."
must be a relative," Keith concluded. "How else can someone get in?"
I began to examine all the casements.
There were bars over the windows. Then I went upstairs and chekced the windows on the first floor, where I found a loose
window. "Here's how they're getting in."
Marty blanced his freckled face. "Does this mean drug dealers
are using this house?"
"I'm afraid so, son."
"How do we catch these crooks?" Jeff spat.
is the problem," I simplified. "We don't know how they're getting their commerce done in here. I'll alert the
police about my suspicions."
Like many of the mysteries, I based it upon reality. At the time, my mother and I were trying to sell my grandmother's false.
First, the house was virtually abandoned, then my grandmother died. It took almost a year to sell the house.