Murder, Misfits & Mutts -- a Carmel Love Story Novella

“Murder, Misfits & Mutts”

A Carmel Love Story 

 Prologue

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Once upon a time, in a fairyland called Carmel-by-the-Sea…

Walter Knox sat in a cold leather chair staring at the headline in the lower right corner of the Wall Street Journal’s front page.  Knox didn’t need to read the story. He knew all about it. And how it would end.

     Knox dropped the paper on his lap, finished his Scotch and stared across the cavernous room into the mouth of a fireplace imported stone by stone from some derelict Scottish castle.  Knox was also a relic, looking considerably older than his 78 years, battered conscience sucking whatever life he had left out of him. He longed for nothing – except the one thing he needed to survive: the will to continue the charade.

     His partnership with Charles Stanton had made both men wealthy. During good and bad times, their investment firm never promised more than they could deliver.  Until Stanton died and his son, Charles Stanton Jr., took over, and quickly became the face of Alpha Dog International.  Junior’s fiscal wizardry knew no bounds – much like his ethics. Walter Knox was in constant battle with his young partner, eventually becoming a quiet accomplice to Junior’s financial machinations.

     About to pick up the paper in his lap, something across the room caught Knox’s eye. The anguish in his face and body gone in a millisecond as the only soul that touched his heart raced across the floor, threw herself on top of the Wall Street Journal and gave him a big slurpy kiss on the mouth.

     Knox made a funny grimace. Looking deep into Winifred’s big brown eyes, he began singing softly to his scruffy white and mocha 12-pound terrier-mix mutt…

It had to be you / It had to be you                                                                                  I wandered around, finally found, somebody who                                                    Could make me be true / could make me feel blue                                                      And even be glad, just to be sad, thinking of you…

     Winifred curled up in his lap burying her furry head against his chest. Caressing Winifred’s velvet pointy ears, Walter Knox eyed the WSJ story with the headline:

        Surprise Witness to Testify in
Alpha Dog Hedge Fund Investigation
.

     Knox regarded his bottle of Macallan 64-year-old Scotch on the table by his chair.

 

     Knox’s cell phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID… set the phone down next to his bottle of Scotch. Knox regarded the bottle, eyes settling on a 9mm pistol beside it.

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Charles Stanton Jr. waited until the ringing went to voicemail, disconnected and slipped his iPhone into the pocket of his designer bomber jacket. His partner’s lack of communication left Stanton’s slim tightly wound body oozing anxiety down to his Salvatore Ferragamo Moccasins.

     Stanton’s foreboding lightened as he gazed at the world class collection of Orchids filling his Victorian greenhouse. White and Black. Red Dragons. Vampire, Scorpion and Bat orchids, Monkey and Lizard varieties. He had them all. His tension eased even more when he looked upon his Rothschild. The long, draping horizontal petals were like no other. Stanton paid dearly for his, but no matter. Something about owning a Rothschild made him all warm and fuzzy inside.

     But the orchid he cherished most, and in a sense defined him, was the Ghost Orchid. Almost impossible to find in the swamps of Florida’s Big Cypress – even more impossible to find in one’s greenhouse, given the laws against picking, removing or relocating the exotic flower. Circumventing those laws only added to the Ghosts’ attraction. Enraptured by its white and pale creamy green flowers, Stanton was equally entranced by the fact, or fiction, that the Ghost orchid was pollinated by the Giant Sphinx Moth – a theory based on Darwin’s idea that adaptation happens depending upon the surrounding habitat.

     The thought made Stanton smile. Adapting to the surrounding financial habitat was what gave him all this. And now the Ghost had given him the answer to his problem. After all, who was he to argue with Darwin?

     Stanton pulled his iPhone, punched numbers. A man answered after two rings.

     Skipping the usual pleasantries, Stanton said, “I believe your suspicions are justified…”  Stanton listened to his associate, walked out the greenhouse and surveyed his rolling vineyards tucked against the lush hills of Carmel Valley.

     “No, that won’t be necessary. I’ll handle it…”  Stanton disconnected and strolled toward his French country estate.

     “One must adapt to protect one’s habitat. Life’s natural order. Adapt or die.”

 ~   ~   ~ 

PART ONE

Chapter 1

“The more men I meet, the more I like my dog.”

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