I love being a private eye, really I do. Especially when I work undercover. During the last year, I’ve gone undercover as a salesperson at an upscale 5th Avenue department store, posed as a tourist buying counterfeit designer handbags on Canal Street, and installed myself in luxury hotel across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a bitchy rich matron. I even have a closet on the top floor of my brownstone filled with my ‘working clothes’, disguises I use to fit in and get in anywhere.
Being right in the thick of things gets my adrenaline pumping. Most of the time, anyway. The case I just finished, was the one exception. It was one of those times when I definitely would have been happier sitting at my desk in my office.
It all began when my good friend and insurance investigator, Joe Santangelo, hired me to tail a hood named Ralphie Bonaturo. Ralphie was Joe’s prime suspect in the high-end heist of a diamond ring from the apartment of a wealthy couple on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. What Joe didn’t know, and neither did I, is that Ralphie was connected to the Sal Santucci New York crime family. Ralphie, a low-level wannabe, was the night doorman at The Three Aces, the mob’s social club on Carmine Street. His hours began when most people were going home for the evening and lasted well into the early morning, which meant that mine did, too.
Watching Ralphie had been a real treat. Disguised as a dirt-streaked homeless bag lady in a tattered coat piled with unraveling scarves, I’d been hanging around the alley across from the club for several nights, rummaging through the overflowing dumpster between the Chinese takeout place and the Italian salumeria. It was a good location, except for the rats that were showing me their pointy teeth in anticipation of nibbling on me for their next meal.
The last night of the stakeout, things got interesting. The club, which was usually just a hangout for Santucci’s crew, turned into a real crime buster’s convention. A line of long black limos with Jersey plates pulled up one after the other and disgorged a procession of too-tanned men in sleek suits flanked by beefed up bodyguards. Somehow, I didn’t think their presence had anything to do with Joe’s missing diamond ring.
When I got home I was tired and dirty and figured I’d call Joe in the morning and fill him in on what I’d observed. Santucci was definitely up to something. What I didn’t know then, was that it would also involve my other good friend, Laurel Imperiole, a senior editor at Women Now magazine.
Laurel had received several emails from of a reader asking for her help. The woman suspected her fiancé wasn’t who he said he was and was frightened of him. The emails had given Laurel the idea to write a story about hidden identity and she decided to use her boyfriend, Matt Kuhn, a Swiss banker, as the model of a good guy with nothing to hide. Not the best idea since everybody has something they’re keeping secret. Laurel asked me to investigate her boyfriend’s background and report in. An even worse idea as it turned out.
Helping Laurel got us both into a heap of trouble as we tangled with the mob, International banking and a murderer who was doing his best to kill us to keep the truth from becoming known.
You can read more about Helen and Laurel in Keeping Secrets, the second book in the “Laurel and Helen New York Mystery” series from Camel Press. The first book in the series is Telling Lies, a story that deals with stolen Nazi art. Both are available on Amazon or through bookstores.
GIVEAWAY: Comment on this post by noon EST on January 24, and you will be entered to win a copy of either the print OR Kindle version of Keeping Secrets. One winner will be chosen at random.
Meet the author
Cathi Stoler is a native New Yorker who always wanted to be Nancy Drew. Since that didn’t happen, she turned to solving crimes through writing about them. Her mysteries feature P.I. Helen McCorkendale and magazine editor, Laurel Imperiole in her Laurel and Helen New York Mystery series. Novels with these two protagonists include Telling Lies, Keeping Secrets and The Hard Way, releasing in April ’14. She has also published a novella, Nick of Time, and is working on a new series, Bar None, A Murder on The Rocks Mystery featuring Jude Dillane, a New Yorker, like Cathi herself. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, as well as Sisters in Crime and posts at the Women of Mystery blog.
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