Parking meters, the bane of every driver’s existence, could prove fatal for Teller, an award-winning investigative journalist. Returning to his home town after a twenty-year absence, Teller investigates the mysterious appearance of the Meter Mangler, a hooded vandal who is trashing parking meters. The Mangler is fast becoming a local hero to the town, a town being crushed beneath the oppressive thumb of the Department of Parking Enforcement.
With the death of his best friend, Teller turns his attention to the secretive DPE, a government entity which has enacted Draconian measures against anyone unfortunate enough to need a parking space. Commuters are in an uproar, businesses have fled and the downtown shopping area is a ghost town. The people are up in arms. The town is a powder keg.
As parking meters spring up everywhere, and uniformed thugs cruise the streets in Cushman carts like hungry wolves seeking prey, Teller struggles with the ghosts of his past and his growing attraction to his blue-haired lodger while staying one step ahead of a growing threat to his life.
Chapter One – News Never Sleeps
Except for the half-dozen cats scattered about the king-sizedbed, I was alone beneath the twisted sheets, deep in an uneasy dream. A gongstruck and struck again, the reverberations echoing through the air like a coldwind that lifted me upward toward a starless sky and settled me down in a roomaglow in predawn light. The beeper chirped on the bedside table. I reached overand turned it off without looking to see who it was. The page could only befrom one person. I fumbled about for my cell phone, flipped it open and pushedthe only speed-dial number set on it.
“A little early for a Sunday wake-up call, don’t you think?”I said when the connection was made.
“News never sleeps, Teller,” said Felice, her usualmelodious voice muted and somber. My heart began to race.
“Bad news, I suspect.”
“For you especially, I’m afraid. Your friend Harrison deWhitt was found dead in the East River Monorail parking lot.”
I bolted up, scattering cats. Harrison? I’d had dinner withhim two nights previous.
“When?” I said, swallowing hard. “How?”
“As to the when, approximately ten minutes ago,” she said. “Asto the how, I assume you are asking how was he found and not how he died? I cananswer the former but have no information regarding the latter.”
There was a long silence. I could hear a deep inward breathfollowed by a long exhalation.
“I’m sorry, Teller. That was a harsh way to answer yourquestion. He was my friend as well.”
“I know, Felice, I know.”
“His body was discovered soon after most of the parkingmeters in the lot went up like Roman candles. I’m afraid I know nothing more,which is why I suggest you get there as quickly as possible.”
I rolled off the bed.
“I’m on it,” I said. “I’ll call as soon as I havesomething.”
I flipped the phone closed and went in search of clothes.
I dressed in what I could find in the dim glow of pre-dawn. Iwasn’t ready for lights. I wasn’t ready for Harrison being dead.
In the kitchen, I poured food in the cat bowls, spillingmost of it in my haste. There was a drip supply of fresh water but I checked itanyway, tripping and kicking it with my toe, splashing water across the floor. Cursing,I considered mopping it up but decided I didn’t have the time.
As I stepped out the front door it struck me that the lightin the stairwell leading to the upstairs flat was out. The darkness gave mepause. That light burns 24/7, one of those low-watt forever bulbs and its beingout meant something. As an investigative reporter, I’ve learned that a healthy doseof paranoia is a good defense mechanism.
Standing there, the dawning sun broke and shone through thebalustrade, casting slanted shadows up the stairway, stirring up fragments ofdream memory. For a moment I could smell a hint of L’Air du Temps in the air. Butthat wasn’t possible. I knew it wasn’t my boarder’s perfume. She wore a fruityblend of something I couldn’t quite distinguish.
I closed the door behind me and hurried to my car, that hintof L’Air du Temps following like a phantom.