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TANNER

By Larry Payne All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Thriller

Chapter 1

I snaked my arm out from under the covers and slapped the top of the buzzing clock. I’d just used up the last of my self-imposed quota of hitting the snooze alarm. I poked my head out from under the blanket and looked into the hard stare of Max, my Rottweiler, sitting next to the bed.

“Five more minutes, Max,” I said and threw the blanket back over my head.

No sooner had my head disappeared, the blanket flew off the bed clamped in the jaws of the big Rott as he disappeared through the bedroom door.

“Max!”

I smiled when I got a loud baritone reply from somewhere in the house. The strong aroma of fresh coffee persuaded me to swing out from under the sheet. I sat for a moment on the edge of the bed before getting up and slipping into the robe that lay on the chair next to the dresser.

Max sat on the blanket near the back door staring at me when I shuffled into the kitchen.

“Some friend you are,” I said.

I poured the steaming black liquid into the white coffee mug next to the coffeemaker and carried it to the back door where Max sat squirming and looking up at me in anticipation.

I’d barely unlocked and opened the door before he bolted outside to go through his morning ritual of flushing the rabbit from under the Lilac bush, chasing it across the yard, then crashing head on into the chain link fence as the rabbit scampered through it. You’d think, sooner or later, Max would figure out he’s too big to go through that fence.

I stood at the back door and sipped my coffee until Max finally concluded the ritual by lifting his leg on the fence. He came charging back to the house, nearly knocking me over as he squeezed between the doorjamb and me.

I closed and locked the door and then turned into the kitchen, put my coffee mug in the sink and shuffled back down the hall to the bedroom. I took a quick shower, made the decision to forego a suit and then put on a pair of khakis, a v neck sweater and dug my loafers out of the back of the closet. After determining I was presentable, I grabbed my black leather jacket and returned to the kitchen.

I filled Max’s food and water bowls, unlocked his oversized dog door and took a minute to decide, then grabbed a set of car keys from the wall peg.

I hit the door opener, went down the garage steps, stepped around the old jalopy and removed the cover from my new 1978 Midnight Blue Ford Thunderbird. I was determined to make this a good day.


I turned the T-Bird into the entrance of the parking garage and flashed my pass at the gate attendant.

“Mornin’, Mister Tanner,” said Nate Stokes with a big smile, waving me through the gate.

I drove up the ramp to the second level and settled the T-Bird into my assigned space near the stairwell. I lifted the cover from the trunk, slid it gently over my pride and joy, then made my way down the stairs and across the street level of the parking garage.

“Brought the good car this mornin’, eh Mister Tanner?” shouted Nate from the window of his booth.

“Needed to give her some air,” I shouted back and waved as I left the garage.

I saw a break in the traffic, jaywalked across the street and stepped up on the curb in front of the First National Bank.

I reached into my pants pocket and peeled off a couple of George Washingtons from my thin wad of folded money and dropped ‘em in the hat of the old guy, dressed in an army fatigue jacket, that sat on a rug in front of the bank building.

Now, there’s been talk that this guy didn’t need the money, but whether he needs it or not, if he’s gonna sit all day on that hot pavement, I’m gonna give him a coupla bucks just for the effort.

He tipped his ball cap at me and I opened the bank’s glass doors and stepped into the outer lobby.

“Howdy, Mister Tanner,” said Sadie Hixson from her customary seat on the padded stool in the elevator.

Sadie’d been operating that elevator as long as I could remember and some of the old timers swore Sadie was the only operator that elevator ever had. I don’t know if I believed that, but I sure couldn’t dispute it either.

“How are you this morning, Sadie?” I said and stepped into the elevator after waving at the bank security guard.

“Fine, Mister Tanner, just fine.”

She slid the elevator door and the inner security gate closed and started the elevator on its upward climb. I leaned back against the wall and watched the big, black numbers of each floor slowly slide by until she stopped the car on the eighth floor.

“Have a good day, Mister Tanner,” said Sadie with a smile, as she opened the doors. A light buzzed when I stepped from the elevator.

“I’m comin’, I’m comin’,” she said and slid the doors closed.

My footsteps echoed down the hall and I nodded to the cute blond just before I opened the frosted glass doors with the arced black letters declaring TANNER INVESTIGATIONS.

“Well, look who decided to join us, Harvey,” said my secretary, Amanda “Mandy” Parker, to the big, gray, longhaired cat, lying on his side, next to the phone on her desk. Harvey lifted his head to give me an annoyed look, then resumed his attempt to take a nap.

I’d found Harvey wandering the hall one day and, being the Good Samaritan I am, brought him into the office where it didn’t take long for him to claim it as his own. He’s been ruling the roost ever since.

“This was left in the drop box,” said Mandy, holding up an opened envelope as I stepped to the coffee pot behind her.

I filled a mug with coffee, set it on the edge of her desk and took the envelope. I removed a letter, read it and held up two box seat tickets to the Lake City Stallions game.

“There’s a VIP parking pass, too. Wanna go to a baseball game?” I said.

“When?”

“Tonight.”

“Who sent those?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “Letter says we should come to the game and they would get in touch with us.”

“Do I get to ride in the ‘Bird?” said Mandy, raising her eyebrows.

Because of the assortment of bullet holes I’ve had to patch, Mandy didn’t ride in the heap unless she had to. Dodging bullets was not her idea of a good time. So, if I wanted her to go anywhere with me, I had to take the “nice” car.

“We leave at six,” I said, picking up my coffee mug.

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