"Maybe after two world wars, people are beginning

to understand the insanity of hate."

 
 

 

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Book 2

Nic and Nora

Mystery series

Puzzled by

the Clues

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puzzled by the Clues

A Nic and Nora Mystery

Book 2

 

When long time friend, Professor Charles Bohn, is found dead supposedly by his own hand, Anna Owen suspects foul play. The Owen gang investigation heads to the professor's home but stalls when a mysterious prowler runs into Anna as he tries to escape through the back door.

The search uncovers a single clue, a discarded crossword puzzle that at first appears to reveal nothing. As they consider giving up, Nic deciphers the professor's message and discovers a trail of corruption involving high profile leaders from private industry to police and city and state officials, a discovery that puts the group in grave danger.

While the investigation continues, news from Nuremberg brings to light the death and destruction caused by the Third Reich's sinister agenda. Word of the atrocities spread, appalling many and wearing on the protective layer of innocence preserved by a few, but not all citizens are disgusted or surprised. When the case takes two of our heroines undercover, they learn that efforts to create a superior race did not end in a bunker in Berlin.

The second Nic & Nora Mystery, Puzzled by the Clues, follows both the blossoming relationship of Nic and Nora and that of Anna and Allen. Characters at the heart of the Owen gang and those on the perimeter, offer humor, wisdom, and the belief that there is always hope. As Anna points out, "Maybe after two World Wars, people are beginning to understand the insanity of hate."

 

 

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Thanks, Jean Sheldon, for your tireless efforts in making your work polished, intriguing and smart. 

 

*

 

...intriguing, with parallels to today's issues. 

 

*

 

...developed each character while intertwining darkness and humor together in a way that never seemed as though it was being forced.

 

*

 

...just when you think you’ve figured it out, Sheldon delivers another clue that sets the pace for another plot twist.

 

*

 

I highly recommend this book to all would be sleuths out there, who are looking for a story that entices their imagination while taking them back to a time period in history that surprisingly enough is still part of what’s going on around our county and the world.

 

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chapter 1

 

The solid oak door yielded as Nic pressed her shoulder and pushed into the apartment. It felt heavier than usual and she wondered if the muggy train ride played a part in her weakened condition. Muffled snoring drew her to the sofa where her petite aunt barely filled the three cushions on which she slept. Anna's uncharacteristic nap, her grip on a damp hankie, and the book spread face down on her chest confirmed Nic's suspicions. They were both casualties of the sweltering temperatures.

A brown and grey striped cat that sprawled across the sofa back scarcely twitched an ear as Nic closed the door, but the sleeping human stirred. "Nicole, you look as wet as I feel."

Nic lifted strands of soggy hair from her neck and noticed Anna's waist-length gray braid coiled and pinned atop her head, another concession to the heat and humidity that was July in Chicago. "Hi, Aunt Anna. I'm not sure if it's better to work in air conditioning all day or not. I left the Mart and felt like I'd stepped into a furnace." Nic stopped complaining when she recognized a rare opportunity to tease her aunt. She tapped the book cover. "Were you reading?"

"I was, smarty. At least until I dozed off. It's a new Christie, Remembered Death. Judging by the first few chapters, it should be good." Anna sat up and ran the handkerchief under her chin. "Trust me, Nicole. You're better off working in air conditioning."

"I'm sure you're right. Here. If you need a break from fiction, I picked up an evening paper." Nic removed a folded newspaper from under her arm and laid it on the coffee table. "Did you know it was one hundred degrees yesterday? That's the highest temperature recorded this year. They say a few more days like that and 1946 goes into the record books. I decided the best thing to do with the paper was use it as a fan."

Monday through Friday, and on the occasional Saturday, Nic Owen boarded an elevated train near her and Anna's north side apartment and commuted to Chicago's Merchandise Mart to star in the radio show, Inez Ingalls, Private I. The show and her career had begun the previous October.

In the 1930s, radio dramas, plays that relied on voices, sounds, and the listener's imagination to tell their story, had a moderate audience in the United States. At the end of World War II, soap operas, suspense thrillers, and detective stories became the rage, offering a few hours of entertainment as people gradually left the pain and loss of war behind. Radio stations rushed to fill the growing number of available parts by hiring both experienced and unknown actors. Nic Owen was among the latter group, but her surprisingly natural and effortless audition convinced WBAC station manager Frank Myers that she had a voice and style perfect for radio. He hired her to read commercials and act as understudy to Carolyn Park, star of a soon-to-air show about a female investigator.

A few weeks after Nic started, and only days before the first show was to air, a crew cleaning the studio discovered Mrs. Park collapsed on the stage. She was dead. The event thrust Nic into two unfamiliar roles, radio star and suspect in a murder. When police seemed unable to solve the crime, Nic's personal involvement, and Anna's love of a good mystery convinced the women to offer unrequested assistance to the investigation. Their clever deductions and sometimes-dangerous exploits helped put the murderer behind bars.

"How was it in here today, Aunt Anna?"

"Stifling." Anna grumbled. "I don't normally work on Friday, but one of my students has a test Monday and wanted extra help. When he left, Alley and I retired here." She rubbed the cat's furry belly, moving her hand quickly to avoid a swat.

After two decades teaching English at the university, Anna faced the reality that as a female she would never advance beyond assistant professor. A dislike of academic politics and a love of teaching convinced her to leave the position and tutor students at home.

"I'm going to change. Can I bring you anything?" When Anna shook her head, Nic departed to the back of the apartment. Moments after her exit, Anna discarded the book and spread the newspaper across the coffee table. She flipped the pages with only passing interest until the face of an old friend appeared before her. Anna read the caption, drew a sharp breath, and lifted the hankie she still gripped to cover her whispered response. "Charles."

Nic returned, cooler after trading her soggy blouse and slacks for a sleeveless cotton top and shorts. She sank into the stuffed chair, but it was not until she placed her glass on the coffee table that she noticed her aunt's face was wet with tears. "What is it, Aunt Anna?" Anna lifted the paper to show her an article. Nic was not sure why. "Do you know the man?"

"So do you, Nicole."

It took a second look for Nic to recognize her aunt's friend, Dr. Charles Bohn. The caption confirmed her guess. She had not seen the professor in nearly sixteen years and his beard and hair were black then, not gray as in the photograph. He often came for dinner on Saturdays, and after, they would put their heads together to solve a crossword puzzle, a puzzle that he created. Nic could not recall when or why his visits stopped. "I'm sorry, Aunt Anna. What does the article say?"

Anna wiped her eyes and rested her fingers on the picture as she read. "Dr. Bohn's housekeeper arrived at the north side home at eight o'clock yesterday morning and discovered him dead in his office chair. Police found a gun on the floor and a note on his desk indicating that he had taken his own life."

The paper slipped from Anna's fingers and she sat without comment. Nic regarded her for several minutes before disturbing the thoughtful silence. "Did you still see the professor, Aunt Anna?"

"Not very often I'm afraid. Did I ever tell you about the difficulties Charles and his wife endured?"

"No. In fact, I don't think I knew he had a wife."

"He was married. I met him when he started teaching in 1929. You'd been living here nearly a year by then. A short time before he joined the English Department his wife and twelve-year-old daughter were involved in a train accident. The girl died. His wife survived, but her physical injuries left her in a wheelchair and she never recovered emotionally from their daughter's death. She suffered depressions that were often severe enough to require hospitalization. Eventually, she was able to stay at home, but the poor woman remained bed-ridden during her final years. She passed on last September. His visits were one of the few outlets Charles had. Even back then, he spent almost all his free time caring for her. Having dinner and watching you and me solve his crossword puzzles did wonders for him. You did wonders for him, Nicole. You were near his daughter's age and he delighted in your company." She added in a whisper, "Mine too, I think."

"Why did he stop coming?"

Moisture returned to Anna's eyes, deepening the blue and magnifying the silver flecks. She clenched the hankie, wiping her cheeks before dropping it to her lap. "I asked him to. I didn't know what else to do. He would never have abandoned his wife, nor did he suggest that we have a relationship, but I knew if I proposed it, he would. I have to admit, I was tempted more than once. Charles was witty, intelligent, kind, and I enjoyed his company immensely. It became increasingly painful to have him here, and agonizing to see him leave."

"What did you tell him?"

Anna picked at the handkerchief as she spoke. "You'd gone to bed and we were in the living room with our coffee. I could barely breathe, but managed to tell him that the visits had to stop. He didn't protest. He patted my hand and said he understood. We walked to the front landing and hugged. Then he kissed me as he never had and left. After that, I saw him occasionally at school while I was still teaching, and only by chance when I resigned."

"It's funny that I don't remember much about that time."

"For the first few weeks you asked about him, but you soon forgot. When you're young, new things happen every day. It's easier to deal with change, and easier to forget."

Nic moved to the sofa and wrapped an arm around Anna's shoulder. "Is there anything I can do?"

"No. Thank you, dear. I just need a few minutes. I suppose something could have happened since I saw Charles at his wife's funeral, but after all he'd endured, I can't imagine what tragedy could have occurred to convince him take his own life. That is not the Charles Bohn I knew."

 

   
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