Gerald W. Darnell

Preview Justifiable Homicide

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  The Humboldt Hotel is an old establishment, in an old building and one that time had not been kind to. Although nice, it simply had not kept up with the modern world of the 1960's. Built near the turn of the century , the hotel was once know as one of the finest in West Tennessee. Now...well...things were different.  Travelers were looking for the comfort, convenience and amenities of the motels that lined 22nd Avenue. They wanted swimming pools, rooms with televisions, phones and easy parking - things not offered at the Humboldt Hotel.

  Located on the south side of West Main Street, the hotel sits between Duffey's Feed Store on one side and a retail outlet on the other. I parked the Ford in front of the feed store and dashed through the rain to the large glass doors that offered entrance to the hotel.

  After stepping into the spacious lobby I stopped, shook the rain out of my hair and looked around. To the right was a small coffee shop with a few customers already gathering for lunch.  To the left was a gift shop - it was closed. Sitting in the middle of the lobby was a huge round leather couch surrounding an imitation planter that held a large, plastic and dusty resemblance of a palm tree - quite odd for West Tennessee.

  At the rear of the lobby was the check-in-desk, appropriately painted a 'dark oak' color, and with those silly 'pigeon hole' mail slots mounted on the wall. Standing behind the desk, and sorting through the day's morning mail was a short, balding man; he glanced up and smiled when I walked in his direction. Looking around his shoulder, and to his left, I could see a large open door - the room behind was dark. But, it appeared to contain the unoccupied dining room and banquet area of the Humboldt Hotel.  A few feet to the left of the dining room door was a small stairway that led to thehotel rooms, I assumed.

     I wasn't aware of her presence until I heard a slight sound to the left, and then the aroma of her perfume struck me like a hammer. Turning to look - my shock must have been obvious. She smiled without speaking,  handed me a lighter and stuffed a cigarette in her mouth.  Surprised and confused with her actions, I took the lighter, lit her cigarette, and stared at her beautiful face. Who was my new visitor?

   No lipstick, no makeup and no frills, this lady seemed 'all business', while adding a mysterious air to her personality.  Hair was dark and cut short; almost in a man's style, but longer on the top and sides.  Her facial features were gentle in texture, but strong in appearance - while presenting a smile that had confidence written all over it. Small lips surrounded the freshly lit cigarette, and they appeared to be moving as she slowly sucked air through the filter, drawing smoke into her lungs - and adding to her comfortable smile.  However, despite what I thought I saw, I heard nothing coming out of her perfectly shaped mouth - this lady wasn't speaking yet, at least not with words!

 She was wearing a white 'snowflake' sweater that appropriately emphasized her ample breasts, which slowly rose and fell as she took a deep draw from her cigarette.  Skintight red slacks surrounded a perfect lower body, without a flaw or wrinkle - providing little imagination to the viewer for what was underneath. They did, however, make one wonder how someone could put them on without help!

   The sweater and slacks were highlighted by light brown loafers, which she had now, comfortably, placed near the foot of my bar stool.  I saw no earrings, no jewelry, no rings and no extra added attractions to her appearance - I was interested.

    "Mr. Reno," she said blowing smoke in my direction. "I'm Helen Goodhead, do you have a moment?"

   "I'm...I'm sure you are..." I stammered while staring at her eyes and not realizing what I had just said.

   "What?  What...," she stuttered. "Do you know who I am?"

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Carson's client is suspected of two murders, and she desperately needs his help.  After a night of drinking she wakes up in a hotel room with a dead man, but claims no memory of the previous night's events. However, a gun found in the hotel room was used for another murder - used to kill a lawyer at the local Drive Inn Theater. Then...things get worse!

The murder gun belongs to his client's husband and has her fingerprints all over it.  PLUS the dead lawyer was blackmailing her AND witnesses saw her at both murder scenes.

Interesting and dangerous characters surface, and somehow events from World War Two areplaying a role in the mystery.  To prove his client innocent, Carson must unravel a complex blackmail scheme and explain a few murders.

Follow Carson as he chases strange clues trying to solve this 'old fashion' murder mystery. A mystery that has everyone looking the wrong way.