joan merrill, author of the Casey McKie mysteries 
murder and mayhem in the world of jazz
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And All That Stalking, sample chapter
Shit, shit, shit.” I’d just deleted a file I’d been working on all day. I was doing background checks for my bread and butter client Barton, Lehmanand Associates. They were contracted to hire a bunch of people for the new San Francisco office of the Harrison-Overland Group, or HOG, as I liked tocall them. They were an investment company that was bailed out during the Great Recession of 2008 and was now rolling in dough and opening new offices like crazy.
      Barton-Lehman had subbed out the background checks to me, several days’ worth for a princely fee, enough to keep me afloat for a month or two.But I was tired of it and had lost concentration, thus clicking the wrong button and wiping out several hours of work.
      What did we do in the days before computers? Typed. Copied. Phoned. Faxed. Paged. Mailed. Spoke to each other. We take the new technologies for granted, but to me they’re sort of magical. Being able to make a living sittingon your butt at a computer instead of haunting newspaper archives or thehall of records to check people’s histories is beyond cool. My home computer
desk is my office. If I have to see a client, I meet him at his place or at some neutral location like the Buena Vista Cafe or Victoria’s Bakery, both within walking distance.
     But one problem with the computer is that you get tired of sitting on your ass.
     The phone rang and I didn’t care who it was. I’d chat with someone selling lots on the moon, I was so bored.
     "Casey?” It was my friend Dee Jefferson, who owned a jazz club in North Beach near my apartment in Chinatown. She sounded anxious.
     "What is it?”
       Dee’s breath came in spurts. “I just heard on the news—Jerilynn Walters—you know the singer—she was murdered last night—”
     I sat up, my muscles tense. “The name’s familiar, but I can’t place—”
      Dee filled me in, her voice a little calmer. “She’s young, just started gigging around town.” She took a deep breath. “She was killed in her apartment. Raped and strangled.”
      I gasped. “Jesus. They know who did it?”
      “No, but her boyfriend’s being interviewed.”
      “Did he do it?”
      "No, he did not.” Her tone was indignant. “He’s Greg Sanderson, the drummer, young guy.”
      I thought a moment. “He’s played the club, hasn’t he?”
      "Yeah, a number of times, good player, and a nice kid.” She was building up to something. I had an idea what it was.
      "I think the cops are gonna try to stick him with this murder. And I know he didn’t do it.”
      Just what I expected. Every time someone Dee likes gets into trouble, especially if it’s a jazz musician or an African-American, she asks me in my capacity as a private investigator to intervene. It was flattering, but also frustrating. Like the time she wanted me to take on the Internal Revenue Service for a musician friend they were harassing for back taxes. As intrepid as I am, I’m scared shitless of the IRS.
     And then there was Milton Brown’s supposed suicide. She had me look into that, and it turned out to be the work of a serial killer. And just a few months ago, while we were on a cruise, she got me involved in investigating the disappearance of a passenger. I’d never be out of work as long as I knew Dee Jefferson. Now here she was trying to involve me in a homicide.

    Copyright, 2014, Joan Merrill, All Rights ReservedJ