Greg Messel is touring in November, December and January with his book from the Sam Slater Mysteries series, Deadly Plunge.
Former baseball player and newly-minted private investigator, Sam Slater is hired to find out why a rich, politically-well connected San Francisco man, Arthur Bolender, suddenly ended his life by plunging off of the Golden Gate Bridge. All those who know Arthur say unequivocally that he did not commit suicide. However, Bolender’s body was found floating in San Francisco Bay and his car was abandoned in the traffic lane of the bridge. Meanwhile, Sam’s romance with glamorous TWA stewardess Amelia Ryan continues to blossom and deepen. She is now his secret fiancee. Amelia also eagerly helps Sam solve his cases when she’s in town. The key to unraveling the mystery seems to be a strange old Victorian-style house. Bolender’s widow, a rich, seductive socialite named Maggie Bolender, was not even aware that her husband owned the house. What is really going on behind the doors of the mysterious house? Finding the answers will plunge Sam and Amelia into a dangerous world of political intrigue in the exciting sequel to “Last of the Seals.”
Amelia shot him a concerned look as he retrieved the gun, but she said nothing. Sam knew that the gun made Amelia nervous. However, by the time this day was over, Amelia would be very grateful that Sam was armed while they were in the mysterious house.
Upon entering, they paused and listened. It was as silent as a crypt. Apparently they were alone in the house. The creaky floors and staircase would have the same effect as ringing an alarm bell if anyone else entered the house.
Sam and Amelia began ascending the stairs. They briefly stopped outside the bedroom door on the third floor and peeked inside. There was no one there and the Victorian bedroom looked just as it had on their earlier visit.
“Let’s go up to the top floor and come back here afterwards,” Sam suggested.
“I agree,” Amelia responded. “I’d like to take a look at what’s inside that roll top desk.”
Sam motioned with a nod of his head and they climbed the stairs to the top floor. They used the skeleton key, which was still hidden on the upper frame of the door. Sam and Amelia proceeded cautiously through the door and again found the room intact and dark.
Amelia clicked on the overhead light and they began exploring the room. Sam started by looking over the tape recorder that was used to tap the phone.
Meanwhile, Amelia began flipping through various folders full of papers scattered on the large working table in the big open room. Sam noticed another phone in the corner across the room on a small end table.
Sam jotted down the number of the phone hooked to the tape recorder. It was UNderhill 5-8947. He walked to the corner phone and saw that the dial was labeled with a different phone number—UNderhill 5-6709. Two different lines.
“Amelia,” Sam said quietly, “Go stand by the phone hooked to the tape recorder. Answer the phone but don’t say anything.”
“Okay,” she responded, moving towards the large table with the phone and recorder. Sam looked at his notepad and dialed UN5-8947. The phone by Amelia began to ring. Sam nodded at her. As soon as she picked up the receiver, the tape machine came to life to record the phone call.
Sam looked quizzically at Amelia. “Anything on that phone gets automatically recorded. This other phone can be more private.”
‘What does that mean?” Amelia asked.
“I don’t know but suddenly I’m dying to know what’s on that tape reel,” Sam responded. There was a new, unused tape still in a box near the tape machine. Sam carefully removed the tape on the machine and replaced it with the new tape. He then put the tape with a record of the phone calls in the flight bag.
Amelia resumed shuffling the papers on the desk while Sam walked to the large rolling board and began studying the documents pinned up under the large title “Operation Valkyrie.”
“Sam,” Amelia said in a barely audible voice, “take a look at these.”
Amelia began to walk him through the papers she had discovered. “These are the diplomatic memos. These papers were sent from Moscow to the Russian Consulate here in San Francisco. These have got to be secret documents and they ended up in this house,” Amelia said in a puzzled tone.
“Let’s throw those in the bag. We need to take a closer look at them. I’m a little spooked looking around up here. I feel like someone is going to come in or pop out of the closet at any minute.”
“I do too,” Amelia confided. “This will give us plenty to digest. Let’s go down to take a look at that desk and then get out of here.”
“I agree,” Sam said. They moved towards the door and clicked off the light.
“This gets stranger all of the time,” Amelia said as they descended the stairs towards the bedroom. “I still think it’s best that no one knows you and I are snooping around in here yet. Once, they know we’re watching them, they’ll start hiding things. We’ll never find out what’s going on here.”
“You’re right. We need to make sure we don’t tip our hand yet. I wonder when they come here…and who ‘they’ is?” Sam said.
Amelia raised the cover on the roll-top desk and began to look over the contents. Sam walked slowly towards the hallway. There was a closet in the hall and Sam wanted to see what was in there.
“Look, Sam, another tape,” Amelia said holding it aloft. “It looks like another one from the tape machine upstairs. It’s labeled ‘November, 1957 to January, 1958.”
“Good work. Put it in the bag,” Sam said with a smile. He then turned to head for the hall closet. Sam slowly pulled open the closet door. Inside were a few office supplies. It was mostly empty.
Just as Sam began to open a box in the closet he heard a sound down below. He froze. There were footsteps below and voices. The stairs began to creak. Someone was coming.
Sam quickly stuck his head in the bedroom door. “Amelia, someone’s coming! Hide!” he whispered. “Quick!”
Amelia looked panicked. She jitter-bugged in place for a moment, then quickly removed her high heels, grabbed the flight bag and slid under the big Victorian bed. Sam rushed to the closet and closed the door as the creaking on the staircase grew louder.
Sam and Amelia held their breath. It sounded like two men were now on the landing on the third floor, chatting as they entered the bedroom.
It was filthy under the bed. Amelia stirred up an accumulation of dust bunnies as she slid under the bed. Dust was swirling all around her. To her side was the flight bag and she clutched her shoes to her chest. She tried to not breathe for two reasons.
She didn’t want to make a sound but she was also fighting off a sneeze generated by the flying lint and dust under the bed. Amelia pinched her nose and tried holding her breath.
“What do we need to do in here?” one of the men asked.
“We need to print some posters for the rally tonight. You and I are supposed to hand them out at the Cow Palace as the union people go into their conference.”
“Lt. Colonel Stephen McKinnon, that’s who,” the one man said mockingly.
“McKinnon thinks we’re all in the Marines and he’s our commander. Who put him in charge?”
“No one, but since Arthur’s plunge off of the bridge, McKinnon’s the boss,” the man said.
The second man walked towards the nightstand and picked up Maggie’s picture. “How did an old geezer like Arthur get a beautiful dame like this?” he said admiring the picture.
“Rich boys can afford nice toys,” his partner said sarcastically.
Amelia could no longer hold her breathe and tried to gently take in some air. It only made the sneeze she was fighting off grow more urgent.
“What do you think really happened to Arthur? Do you think he really killed himself?”
Just then there was a noise under the bed. Amelia could no longer stop it. She did the best she could to suppress the sneeze. The two men stopped talking and looked at one another.
Amelia was really frightened now. The men were completely silent and listening intently. Amelia again tried holding her breathe and closed her eyes. Suddenly she felt a hand around each of her ankles and with a sudden whoosh, she was pulled out from under the bed across the hardwood floor.
To Amelia’s horror she was laying in the middle of the floor staring up at the two men.
“Well, look what we found. You look like you’d be a lot more fun on top of the bed instead of under it,” one of the men said. He then grabbed Amelia and threw her roughly onto the bed as she let out a yelp.
“Hold her down,” the man instructed as he moved towards the bed and the struggling Amelia.