Chief detective Bumpy Morris of the Wilmington, North Carolina Police Department is called early in the morning to inspect a shallow grave that has been discovered at a local park. It contains an elderly-looking man with long, gray hair wearing a dark tuxedo and clutching a German Luger in his lap. The man’s right arm is held stiffly upward with the index finger pointing straight into the air. Checking the corpse for identification, Bumpy discovers that this man was his college roommate forty years ago. In the ensuing investigation, he finds himself traveling to areas of the city he would not have expected, and being confronted by friends and acquaintances from his own past. It eventually becomes obvious that the solution to the case will lie in unraveling the eccentric personality and bizarre lifestyle of his ex-roommate, one that the roommate adopted many years ago.
Detective Bumpy Morris pulled up to the curb in his unmarked squad car and stared momentarily at a large wooden sign which read, “Empie Park.” He opened the door and swung each leg heavily onto the street before standing, then paused to straighten his back and stretch out his left knee. “Goddamn arthritis,” he muttered.
He was a large man at two hundred and fifty pounds, more stocky than fat, and wore a dark trench coat against penetrating winter weather. It was a dreary, cloudy morning in the resort town of Wilmington, North Carolina, the temperature hovering in the low forties, but the eighty-per-cent humidity made it seem colder. At age sixty-one, with mounting orthopedic problems, Bumpy had been fantasizing a move to Florida as soon as his retirement arrived in ten months.
He let out a breath of air and shook his head slightly before making his way to the crime scene.
“Jesus, you look like hell, man,” his partner, Ray Navarro, said, giving him a big grin.
“Gracias por nada,” Bumpy replied, moodily. “And fuck you, too.”
“What were you doing last night, banging one of your escort girls?” Ray needled him in his usual flippant manner. They were extreme opposites both physically and in temperament, which was probably why they got along so well. Ray was a trim thirty-five-year-old Hispanic with the typical features of his race: dark hair, dark complexion, and a thin moustache. As opposed to his divorced and moody partner, he was married, with a wonderful family, and sported a perpetually sunny disposition. He was one of only five officers in the Wilmington Police Department who spoke Spanish.
“I swilled a couple too many beers, if you must know.”
“How many was that?”
“Two or three.”
“Two or three beers, or two or three too many?”
“You need to get married, man. Somebody to keep you in line who’s already got a couple of kids. That’s what you need. Bachelorhood is dangerous. All us Latinos have families.”
“I will certainly take your advice under consideration,” Bumpy said with a scowl. “As I do every day. Now, what have we got here?”
Eighty feet away, next to a large bush, several workers were completing their excavation of a hole which Bumpy already knew contained a body. The coroner was standing by the hole looking down, clipboard in hand. Several uniformed officers were scattered about the scene, keeping gawkers at bay.
“We’ve got a fun case this time, man,” Ray said, rubbing his hands together with glee. “There’s a dead gentleman in that hole dressed in a nice tuxedo. He’s laid out like he’s in a casket. His right arm is sticking straight up in the air with the index finger extended. The other arm is resting on his lap holding a German Luger. I swear to God. A German Luger. Nice piece. It looks like the whole scene was staged.”
Bumpy scrunched up his face and shook his head. He looked around the area for a moment. “How was he discovered?”
Ray pointed to a short, stocky man nearby wearing a red North Carolina State University baseball cap and holding a Jack Russell terrier on a leash. “That guy discovered him yesterday while you had the day off. Or, at least, his dog did. The dog apparently wasn’t on the leash and started digging in this spot. When the guy walked over to retrieve the dog, he saw a finger sticking out of the hole. He called the police on his cell phone. We’ve been excavating the site ever since, sifting through the dirt for clues.”
He shook his head. “Nothing whatsoever.”
“So what’s the guy doing here now?”
“He was just walking his dog through the park again this morning and I asked him to stick around in case you wanted to chat with him.”
Bumpy scowled again. “Nah. See if he has any other information and then let him go. I’ll talk to the doc.”
“Right on, big guy,” Ray said, saluting.
Rolling his eyes at his partner’s indefatigable good humor, Bumpy sauntered over to the hole and peeked in . . .
The Tuxedoed Corpse Reviews
“Here is a great read for one sitting, no matter if you’re waiting for a visit to your doctor, your lawyer (for whatever reason) or your tax consultant. Henry Tonn brings you a quick series of character developments that bring forth all the images for the one sitting, the continued scenes, the smooth dialogue, the full mystery but one often diverting to a selective at-work humor for one reading; a perfect example of the Kindle in operation for timed readers.” –Tom Sheehan, author.
“I’m a resident of Wilmington, and find delightful the weaving of local places into a very unique story of murder.” — Floyd Nelson,Wilmington, N.C. resident.
This thirty-nine-page detective mystery novelette can be accessed through an iPad or Kindle for a mere three dollars and is found on Amazon.com here.