Thursday, February 17, 2005

Forward

Hi. My name is Jana, and I work at Gamut magazine. I’ve been asked by my dear friend, Cattleya Hoskin, to give you good people some background on how she came to write this story. Of course, you can skip this part and go straight to the story if you want to.

Cattleya used to work here with me at the home offices for the magazine in Cleveland. She was a talented writer (although one with a penchant for the m-dash) who loved digging up stories. She was good at it too, but she had one problem; her husband. Cattleya (AKA Cat) is a sweet kid, but she has a real bad habit of picking losers for her romantic interests. In the case of her husband, David Hoskin, he was a dishonest thief.

You see, Cat got a lead on a story and Dave Hoskin stole it out from under her, and it turned out to be a career making piece for him. Now some women would have been content to let her husband take the glory so long as it benefited them as a couple. Not Cat. She divorced him.

Of course, once she was free of him, she still had to find a way to make her own name. With that in mind, she decided to try to get an interview with Lupa Schwartz.

For his part, Schwartz was making his name as the foremost crime solver in the United States. Born in communist Yugoslavia the son of an unknown local woman and an undercover Jewish CIA agent, Schwartz emigrated to America and made his fortune in technologies stocks before turning to detective work. He was something of an enigma, but Cattleya had the inside dope.

You see, it turns out that Cat’s father had worked for Lupa’s maternal grandfather years before. Now to tell this right, I ought to give you some biographical information on Cat’s upbringing. She was born in New York City. Her father was a private detective who had started his career as leg man for the best detective in Manhattan, a man known for both his brains and his girth. When the great detective retired, Cat’s father started his own business and married his longtime sweetheart.

Everything was going well for the young family until the fall of the Berlin wall. The great detective, who was now dying of complications brought on by his lifelong obesity, called Cat’s father and said that his long lost daughter, who they had thought dead years before, was alive and living in Yugoslavia with a former CIA agent. They and their son wanted to flee back to America, but they needed to establish that they knew Americans who would vouch that they had a place to flee to. The CIA agent, Benjamin Schwartz, had been in deep cover for too long, and the agency had long since renounced any knowledge of him. Consequently, he couldn’t actually establish that he was an American citizen.

So Cat’s father and mother left her and her baby sister with relatives on a farm in Ohio and flew off to the Balkans to rescue Lupa (though they didn’t know him at the time) and his parents.

But fate intervened. Lupa, had been earning money solving murders and other crimes for the local authorities. Some of the murders had been vendettas, and now there were vendettas against Lupa. Shortly after Cat’s parents had arrived at the Schwartz home, one of the old markers had been called in. A gang of masked men squealed to a stop in front of the family home and began to fire on the house with a variety of weapons. Lupa was away from the house at the time flirting with one of the local girls telling her bad jokes and discussing American cars, and it was a lucky thing for him that he was because nobody in the house survived. Both Lupa and Cattleya lost their parents on that day.

Eventually, Lupa was able to call in some favors. He appropriated for himself and his childhood friend Ulric safe passage to America. Before coming over, Schwartz had already begun investing in the American stock market with reward money he had earned. Once here, he took a job with a car repossession company taking advantage of the knowledge he’d gathered from his lifelong obsession with all things automotive.

Which brings us back to where we were. Cat wanted to take advantage of this relationship and use it to make her name for herself. To that end, she contacted Lupa Schwartz at his home in Pittsburgh, and she asked if she could interview him for a profile. To her dismay, he refused.

Undaunted, she set off for Pittsburgh anyway. She accosted Lupa at his home, a large Victorian in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill section, which he shared with his housekeeper, his mechanic (both female,) and about four dozen classic cars which he kept in a large underground garage on his property. She asked him again to allow her to interview him, and again he refused. It was then that fate intervened.

As Cat was being escorted off the property, a potential client arrived. It was a local Catholic priest who had been accused of a murder. Schwartz at first refused the case, but soon the local authorities arrived in the form of Detective Trevor Johns of the Pittsburgh Homicide Division. The city hired Schwartz as a contractor so that they wouldn’t have to personally handle the delicate case, and Schwartz agreed to allow Cattleya to cover the investigation for Gamut magazine provided she not turn the story into an exploration of their personal misfortunes. Cattleya of course agreed. She had only wanted a good story, and this was one.

The priest, it turns out, was actually a bit of a local celebrity. He was Fr. Coneely, a vocal proponent of euthanasia, which flew in the face of both legal convention and church doctrine. Coneely had been on a campaign of late to allow the mercy killing of one of his parishioners, a man who was dying a slow and agonizing death. It seems Coneely had made the mistake of admitting that he had thought of a way that he could secretly taint the anointing oil used in last rites. He could protect himself, he claimed, by using the wax from one of the nearby candles to coat his own thumb shielding him from the affects of the topical poison.

A few days after making this claim, Coneely had been called in to actually administer Extreme Unction (the old name for the sacrament of last rites) to the parishioner in question. The man had died shortly after. All of this could have been mere coincidence. He had been dying anyway. But one of the dead man’s daughters insisted on an autopsy where the coroner found excessive traces of the insecticide Chlordane in the places on the man’s body that the priest had anointed.

It seemed an open and shut case, but Lupa was able to demonstrate both Coneely’s innocence and to expose who had actually committed the murder. I would tell you more, but the story can be found in back issues of Gamut magazine, or you can read Cattleya’s personal recollections when they publish her novelization of the episode, Extreme Unction.

The editors at Gamut were thrilled with Cattleya’s story. She returned to Cleveland the triumphant auteur. The only drawback was that she had nobody to share her success with. While in Pittsburgh, she and Detective Johns had begun seeing each other, but some things Cattleya had done covering the story had embarrassed him, so he had broken it off. Eventually, the inevitable occurred, and Cattleya wound up back with her ex-husband.

And wouldn’t you know it, the snake did it to her again. One night, while Cattleya was otherwise involved, Dave Hoskin read Cattleya’s emails. This was how he had stolen the other story as well. Cattleya had received an anonymous email from a secret source informing her of a kickback scheme in nearby Paine County. Dave had forwarded the email to his own account and deleted Cattleya’s copy before she ever got the chance to read it. Then he began investigating and uncovered a plot to defraud the taxpayers who were footing the bill for a reservoir and water treatment plant in the small community of Mississauga, Ohio. Before he was done, he had exposed a corrupt city planner, a construction firm and a county commissioner who was later found drowned at the bottom of the old reservoir when it was drained to open the new one. That was the story which had lead to their divorce, and now the creep was back to his old tricks snooping in Cat’s files again.

This time, there was another email from the same anonymous source; and this time, Dave didn’t do anything differently. He again forwarded the story to his own account and hit the delete key. The next morning, Cattleya found him gone and learned that he was back in Paine county investigating a rumor that one of the local power plants was losing energy from the grid in an apparent case of corporate espionage.

Cattleya was planning to again break it off with Dave when he returned, this time in a dramatic fury, but she never got the chance. One night she got the call from the local authorities in Mississauga. Her ex-husband had drowned in the river.

Cattleya was a mess. She went to Mississauga to identify the body and gather his effects, but something in the story just didn’t seem right to her. The authorities told her that Dave had fallen off a pier while fishing alone at night, but Dave was not a fisherman. He might have gone fishing at night on a pier in the late fall to interview somebody, but he would never have gone alone. Cattleya drove to Squirrel Hill and asked Lupa Schwartz for his help.

The rest of that story, in which Lupa exposes multiple murders and arouses the ire of some very powerful people, can also be found in the back issues of Gamut magazine, or you can read it when they publish Cattleya’s book, Common Sense.

The editors at Gamut were again thrilled with the success of the story in their publication, and Schwartz was thrilled with the attention. A deal was struck, and Cattleya agreed to move to Pittsburgh where she would cover Schwartz’s exploits exclusively for Gamut magazine. The magazine would continue paying her a salary, and she would edit other writers’ work between investigations. She moved into the Victorian so that she could be close to her subject, and we are all expecting great things to come from it.

In fact, the floodgates have already opened with the story you are about to read. Of course, by now you have already heard that Lupa Schwartz is the detective who figured out how Myron Lefkowitz was murdered in front of a live television audience on the set of the popular reality game show Overlord. You may even have seen him reveal the killer on live television, but I doubt that you know the whole story of how he came to be involved with that case in the first place. Cattleya left that part out of the version she published in Gamut magazine.

Trust me, it’s worth the read.

Continue to Chapter 1

1 Comments:

Anonymous Loretta said...

This story was well-thought out and quite interesting. Very much a worth-while read. You're definitely past the stages of would-be writer...keep with it, I have faith in you.

7/17/2005 8:46 AM  

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