MURDER: FISH TO FRY

SEAN HERRING MYSTERY

BY ROBBY S WITT

THIS IS AN ON-GOING STORY, CHECK BACK FOR

NEXT CHAPTER EVERY TWO WEEKS OR SO.

The murder mystery takes place in the fictional town of Levyville, Texas, which is the county seat of Levy County.  The main character, Sean Herring, has a secret he feels he must hide from everyone. Sean's secret is he used to be a woman, but has successfully transitioned (and loving it) to a man. No one must find out. Sean has decided that for thesake of his reputation and career in the small, Texas town it is more important and safer for him to be silent about his past. Besides, his experience with telling his parents was, in a word, disastrous. Sean is obsessed with his looks. He is always clean cut and strives to be as masculine as he can being a small built person. His secretary, Gloria Rhodes, and his best friend, lesbian PI and lady killer Joey McMallard, solve their first mystery in this new series. Thanks for reading. Enjoy! 

Chapter One

Sean Herring was awaken by something heavy sitting on his chest. When his eyes opened, he saw a big white cat sitting with its large head turned away.

I hate cats thought Herring.

The cat turned and looked directly at him. Red rimmed green eyes stared into his soul. The cat said, “Herring Jones, you aren’t a real man!”

Herring’s eye flew open. This time he really was awake. He brushed at his pajama top as if to shoo the nightmare away.

Suddenly, two brown mutts jumped atop his bed and cuddled on either side of him. They had obediently waited until their owner showed some sign of movement.

“Good morning, my beautiful girls. How are you today?” said Herring.

Each dog savored his hugs and rolled on their backs for tummy rubs.

Herring said, “Ah, isn’t this the life! I bet this is a lot better than living in an alley, isn’t it, sweethearts? ”

Herring found the two sisters living in an alley only a block from his loft. The loft was conveniently above Monica's Cafe in downtown Levyville. They were six months old. The neighbors had been feeding them. They were German shepherd mixes. Milly and Sasha were as different as their names. Milly was only 40 pounds while Sasha was sixty. Sasha had lab in her (more wag), while Milly had pit bull (more needy). They had grown into beautiful well-behaved dogs. For the first year, Herring wondered if he had made a mistake. He had had to train them to wear a collar and leash, which in retrospect was pretty hilarious. Now, they could walked by his side without even being attached to a leash at all. They were that smart.

After his shower, Sean Herring toweled off and wrapped the towel around his waist. He stood in front of the mirror and flexed his muscles. His brown almost black eyes sparkled with glee. I love this! I look like what I feel. It is incredible! He beat his hairy chest like Tarzan the Ape man, then grimaced because it hurt. He felt the stubble on his face.  As he pretended to shoot a gun at his reflection, he said to himself, "Well, I'll never tired of shaving, never!" He proceeded to lave his chin. His thick, light brown, wavy mustache and long sideburns, which were the same color as his head, were always left to trend last. Top off his facial grooming he dabbed some aftershave that smelled like his father had used. He combed some gel through his wavy hair with his fingers and brushed it straight back. He admired his handiwork for a second, but noticed the clock on the wall. "Shit, I better get get a move on!"

Hitching his expertly pressed faded blue jeans up, Herring tightened his cowboy belt around his lean waist. He ran a cloth over his already shiny, black buffalo cowboy boots that sported two inch heels. The boots made him taller and less likely for people to notice his small stature he thought.

He grabbed his tan corduroy coat with dark brown elbow patches and put it on over his crisp white western shirt. Herring carefully placed his black cowboy hat on his head. Finally, he opened the door to the stairwell and said, "Let's go girls!"

Two eager dogs swiftly ran past him and down the stairs. Bristling with excitement, they waited for him at the exit door..

"We better get to Sean Herring's Law Office posthaste, eh, girls or the boss will be mad!" said Herring to the wagging canines at his feet. He chuckled at his own joke as he opened the door. 

After clipping the leashes onto to each dogs collar, Sean Herring straighten and looked around his familiar surroundings. He thought about eating breakfast at Monica’s Café, but decided he thought it better to checked into the office, first. Next, his eyes were drawn to the grand dome shaped structure in the middle of Levyville, which was the county seat. The county erected an exact miniature copy of the state capitol that resided in downtown Austin, Texas, right down to the sandstone blocks. Four streets formed a rectangle around it. Main and Autumn Streets occupied the longer sides while Winter and Spring Streets were the shorter sides. Sean admired the building. His examined the facade from bottom of the stone steps to the spiral sticking out of the top dome. Just then, the sun peeked over the roof. Sean immediately shifted his cowboy hat down on his brow. He turned his attention to street level. Most of the businesses of Levyville surrounded the county seat building. And, of whom most were not open, yet. A few, like Robertson's Grocery Store, were showing a glimmer of activity. Rhonda Robertson filled local fruits and vegetables in baskets and on tables that stood in front of her and her husband's, Mac, store. 

Sean Herring looked at his Rolex and said to his dogs, Sasha and Milly, “Looks like we’ll be right on time as usual, eh girls? Let’s go!”

The dogs sprang ahead. Sean kept a strong hold on them. The girls slowed and kept pace with their master.

Sean said, “Good morning, Rhonda? How’s Mac doing?”

 

He and the dogs stood outside Robertson's grocery. Rhonda filled a basket with apples marked organic. She and Mac had been long time residences of Levyville. In fact, Mac’s father had opened the Robertson’s Grocery store after immigrating from Polland. During that time, their name was turned into American sounding name. Robbinowitz was their original name. Mac’s father, Harvey, did not care. He was happy to be an American. He left his past behind. Mac only heard his father talk about his two brothers, Ely and Stanley, who came with him. The rest of the family was lost in the horrible holocaust. No one spoke of it. Back then, Levyville only had about a one hundred population, many of them Jewish Polish immigrants. Now it had grown to three thousand.

“Oh, the alte kocker will live,” said Rhonda, “The doctor says it’s just a bad case of acid indigestion. He’ll have to start eating more of these vegetables we sell and stop eating so much junk food. The old fool! I told him about what my bubbie always gave us—apple cider vinegar. I have taken two table spoons and a whole lemon every day of my entire life. I’ve got no problem with my stomach! Those dogs are looking nice. Did they get a bath recently?”

As he petted the dogs, Sean said, “Yep, I take them to Sonja’s clinic. Her groomer does a great job."

Rhonda said, “What? You don’t take them to Park’s Pink Poodle salon?”

Sean said, “Er, no, I’m not really into all that fru-fru stuff. John Parks and his partner are too serious about show dogs and breeding. I just have mutts that need a bath, clipped nails, and that’s it.  Tori Rodriquez is wonderful. And, if the dogs need any shots, then the doc takes care of them while they are there. Sonja doesn’t charge me an office visit that way."

Rhonda said, “The boys are very nice, Sean, but I know what you mean about taking this show dog stuff too seirous. I don’t want to gossip, but I heard Henry Dent, the pet shop owner, arguing with Lydia, the new parson’s wife. Sounded like they each thought they owned the more superior breed. Oy vay! What a lot of malarkey. Everyone knows dachshunds are the best."

Just then two little wiener dogs ran out of the shop and barked at Sasha and Milly. The two girls happily responded with wagging tails.

“We better be off, gotta to get to work, you know,” said Sean as he looked at his Rolex, “Tell Mac I said hello and wish him well.” Sean touch to tip of his cowboy hat.

Sean walked to the corner with the dogs in tow. Rhonda shooed her two dogs back inside while she finished with the displays. He heard her say, “You two mashugana dogs get back inside on your beds. We’ll have a snack as soon as I get back in. Now, go!”

Sean stood waiting patiently at the corner for the crosswalk for the light to turn green.  It seem like a nice peaceful day. No traffic yet, still too early. In the corner of his eye, he saw a flicker of white dash from under one of the giant cedar trees on the grounds of the county seat to the middle of Main Street. Is that one of those damn plastic bags that float around disturblingly like ghost? Looking at it more carefully he saw a white kitten stalking a clueless dove.  Out of nowhere, a dirty white van with dark windows was speeding down toward them.

Sean had no time to think. Rhonda was standing right behind him. He shoved the leashes into her hands and dived into the street. Just as the speeding van was about to hit the kitten, Sean was able to scoop it up and roll out of the way. The dove nonchalantly flew off. Rhonda and several others all ran over to him.

Sean sat up. His coat was torn. His hat had been ran over and laid in the road flatter than one of Monica's delicious pancakes. His white shirt was filthy with black streets and dust from the road.

Parson Taylor said, “Good Lord, Sean, are you insane?” God, bless you, sir!"

Officer Stephanie Clayton said, .“Are you okay, Mr. Herring?"

Joey McMallard, a PI detective and best friend of Sean, said, “What the hell are you doing, boss?”  

Sean opened his hand gingerly without letting go of the kitten.

Rhonda shuffle over and brought the dogs to him and said, “Oy vay, it’s a cat! It’s miracle you and that poor creature weren’t run over. I saw the whole thing!”

“Me, too, brother! You’are a hero!” said Joey, “I was coming out of Monica’s when I saw that damn van coming right for it.”

“Did anyone get the license plate of the van,” asked officer Stephanie who reached for her radio clipped to her shoulder, "Clara, this is Officer Clayton. I’m reporting a speeding white van. It is going north on main street and heading toward String Hill Town. Almost kill two. No, Clara, I didn't get the license plate. Yes, I know, there a dozen of white vans in the area. Okay, 10-4.”

Katy Johnson, the waitress who worked at Monica’s, bent down and looked Sean over. She said, “I think you might want to go the hospital and make sure you haven’t broken anything, Mr. Herring. I’m studying to be a nurse, but I think the doctors should look you over. I’ll call an ambulance." She reached for her cell phone.

Sean said, “Oh, no, no I’m fine. Joey, help me up. And take this thing off me! You’re the one that likes cats not me. Besides, the dogs might eat it.”

Joey McMallard said, “Well, I’d say they like him.  Look, you aren’t the only one they are licking!” 

Each dog gave Sean a few kisses. They took turns bathing the kitten, cleaning him up. The little thing just let them.

As Sean sat on the curve, he tried to give the kitten to Joey, but the cat held on tightly to his hands.

Joey picked up a back leg and said, “Yep, looks like you are a proud owner of a boy kitten!”

Sean said, "I'm for hell not keeping "it." I hate cats! Oh, my beautiful hat! My coat is torn, my shirt is filthy! Shit, we’ll be late to work! Get me up and let’s go to the office. Gloria is going wonder where we are.”

Joey helped Sean up. One handedly, Sean retrieve his hat. More people gathered.

Jane Tucker, the local newspaper woman snapped his picture and asked him, "Mr. Herring, what are you going to call your new kitten?"

Sean snapped, "I'm not keeping him. I hate cats!!" 

The newspaper woman said, "I see, you'll be given him up for adoption, then?"

He felt the kitten curled up and purr into his palm. Weakening a bit, Sean said, "I don't know."  

The newspaper woman scribbled in her notepad.

As Sean left, people patted him on the back and cheered, “Way to go Sean!” “Real Hero!” “Sean you must have been a football player in your day, eh?”

Sean, Joey, and the two dogs walked to their office building. Four hundred and seven Gladstone was a historic house built in the early 1900's when the town started. It had a wrap around veranda. Sean’s office was on the first floor and Joey’s was on the second.

Sean said, "Come on Joey, take this kitten."  

 

Sean noticed Joey was dressed in her usual torn at knee blue jeans, black tee-shirt and white tennis shoes. Her motorcycle jacket covered broad shoulders of a swimmer. Joey put on her Rayburns. Her Harley motorcycle helmet in her hand. She swept her straight sun-bleached blonde hair off her face in a way that Sean and many others, men, women, gay or straight found very alluring. Some people have the power to attract and Joey McMallard was one of those people. 

Joey said, “Sorry, pal, I’ve got a client to meet at nine thirty. You know me, I would be rather be out by the lake or painting my next masterpiece. But, hey I got to pay the bills. So, onward to the beach! See ya! Tell that beautiful secretary of yours, I’ll see her later, too!”

Sean said, “That's onward into the breach, Joey! Hey, but but I hate cats!” 


The girls stuck their noses at the kitten. They sniffed him and wagged their tails.

 

Sean said, “Down girls, this isn’t breakfast!”

 

Sean undid their leashes using one hand and entered the office.

 

 

 

Gloria Rhodes said, "Mr. H, sir, what on earth has happen to you?" The shock of seeing her employer disheveled appearance made her southern accent become more pronounce than usual. She had only work for Sean Herring for five months, but had already grown accustomed to his fastidiousness to his appearance. 

Sean Herring said, "Here, take this from me, now!" He presented his open palm to her with the kitten clinging tightly to his thumb. "Miss Rhodes, You don't have to call me sir. I've told you before that isn't necessary. Think of something else to call me if you wish."

Gloria said, "Sorry, sir, I mean Mr. H, sir. Darn. I can't help it. How about Boss? I watch alot of British TV detective shows and they all call the guy in charge boss. Oh, a kitten!"

Sean said, "I had to rescue the little runt from a speeding van. It won't let go. I'll have to pry it off me." Regardless of Sean's protests, the kitten was having an affect on him. He stoked his little head. The little creature responded with contented purrs.

Gloria said, "Are you alright, Mr. Herring? Do you need to go the hospital?

Sean said, "No, I'm fine. I've got a spare outfit in my office. My right knee and elbow hurt, but I think they are only bruise. I never pay too much attention to such things. Onward with the show, I say! Please, take the kitten."

 

Gloria said, "Aw, I think he likes you. I've just emptied this box of computer paper. It'll do great for a temporary home. We'll put a towel in it and he can stay in there. I'll call Rhonda to get her bag boy to bring us some kitten food and cat litter. You've got a full slate today. Do you want me to cancel your appointments? I'll take care of the kitten until you can decide what to do."

Sean said, "I don't suppose you could take it?"

 

Gloria said, "Oh, no, sir, I mean, boss. My landlady, Mrs. Feldtstein, would have a cow, absolutely no pets allow. In a heartbeat, she wouldn't hesitate to throw me out. Sorry." Gloria gingerly detached each of the kitten's claws from Sean's hand and placed him in the box by her desk. Gloria shook head and added, "The little guy seems to want to be with you and the girls."

 

Sean said, "I'll be fine. I think I need to get to work and I'll feel much better. Yes, the girls seem to like him. I didn't know they had such strong maternal instincts. Good girls! I thought they would surely eat him, instead." 

Sasha and Milly had immediately lain down next to the box. They took turn sticking their noses into the box and licking him.

While Sean retreated to his office to change, Gloria bent down and petted the cat. She, also petted the dogs. "You two are such good dogs, I really love being around you. So, calming. This is an unusual place. Mr. Herring isn't like any other boss I've ever had. He's intelligent, demanding like most men, honest, gentlemanly, and I would say handsome in a Harry Potter kind of way. You know, a little nerdy. And he treats me with respect, I like that about him. He tries to be manly but he's very kind and has a big heart. Don't worry little fellow, ten to one he'll keep you. He's a sucker for the underdog. I say that because he's given me a chance that no one else would've. I've been to prison, though it was only for a few weeks until I was aquited, but he believes in me. I won't let him down either."

 

When Sean Herring stepped out of his office wearing a fresh set of clothes, now in beige slacks and a black shirt and tie, Officer Stephanie Clayton burst through the door. 

Officer Clayton said, "Sean, have you heard? Paul Parker is dead! Murdered!"

 

Gloria said, "No, you don't mean the owner of the Paker Pink Poodle Salon?"

Officer Clayton said, "I need to interview everyone on the street this morning, and that means you, Sean."

Sean said, "I don't know if I can help. Let's go into my office. Hold, my calls, please, Gloria, until Officer Clayton leaves."

Gloria, "Said yes, sir, I mean boss. Oh, Mr. H, this box from Hill's drugstore came for you this morning." 

Sean knew what was inside it. His testosterone needles and syringes. He tried sound nonchalant about it, "Oh, yeah, thanks."

Gloria said, "I put them on your desk." The little sweat beads that formed on Seans lips and forehead were not missed by his observant secretary. I don't know what it is, but I hope it isn't some kind of drug problem he has or what?

"Have seat, Officer," said Sean,

"Thanks," said Officer Clayton as she sank into one of Seans soft leather client's chairs she retrieved a pad and pen from her person. 

"Shoot," said Sean with a smirk.

"Right, did you noticed anything unusual this morning when you were walking to work,"

"Nope, most of the business around the square weren't open yet, except for Monica's. Mrs. Robertson was filling some baskets out front with vegetables and fruit. I guess we give each other an alibi," said Sean.

"Dan is talking to her now. Maybe she saw something?" said Officer Clayton. Just then, her radio beeped on her shoulder. "This is Clayton, go ahead.

"Stephanie, dear is that you, it's Clara at the station,."

"Yes, Clara, it's me, go ahead," said Officer Clayton while rolling her eyes to the ceiling.

 

Clara's loud voice said over the radio waves, " You'll never guess whose van it is? Parker's Pink Poodle Salon is written on it says Chat. The boys will take care of the finger printing and hauling it in."

"Great, I'll look at it when I get in," said Officer Clayton. who was the highest ranking police woman outside her father the chief.

 

"Ten four, over and out, see ya later," said Clara.

"Bet you a new ten dollar bill, there isn't any finger prints," said Sean.

"Sigh, yeah, that's only on TV when you get that lucky," said Officer Clayton.

"Can you tell me how Paul Parker was murdered?" asked Sean his curiosity getting the best of him.

 

"You'll find out anyway in this small town. He was strangled by one of his very own signature neon pink leashes. He wasn't a very big man, so I think a woman or a man could have done it," said Officer Clayton.

"Sounds like the heat of the moment killing then, not planned," added Sean.

Officer Clayton pulled herself out the soft chair and said, "Thanks, Sean, if you think of anything let me know. I hate to say this, but it might one of our own town people."

"I hope not. Parker was a bit too serious about dog shows and breeds for my taste, but a nice fellow. He and his partner seem to really love one another," said Sean. 

"Mr. Herring, your ten o'clock is here," said Gloria over the intercom.


 

Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
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