William Manchee

Novelist

Trade Paperback ISBN 1-929976-36-4 $14.95

Library Edition ISBN 1-929976-38-0 $24.95

Audio CD $29.00 * September 2006 405 Pages


Stan is called out to Possum Kingdom Lake in Central Texas where a boy scout has been killed in a tragic Jeep accident. At first glance it appears to be just a typical case of a reckless teenager driving too fast, but the teenager, Steven Caldwell, insists the accident wasn't his fault. He claims he was distracted by an alien spacecraft flying overhead. At first Stan thinks his client's story is ridiculous, but as his investigation progresses he discovers his client may be telling the truth.


 

What the critics are saying

 

Manchee provides his readers with a dexterously plotted tale that ties everything together with a surprise ending. And even if you don't believe in space ships and aliens, you have to admit that this would make great courtroom drama- if it actually happened! - Harold McFarlane

 

Writer Manchee has set together another great milieu of engaging, convincing characters, predicaments and blunders. The tale Manchee weaves in Cactus Island brings us another great romp with full time lawyer part time sleuth Stan Turner and his law partner Paula Waters. 5 Stars - Molly Martin

 

While this is a mystery, there is no denying the dash of science fiction adds flavor to the story. It is told in first person narrative by Stan Turner and his partner Paula, who alternate chapters, which makes it somewhat unique in character. - John Washburn

Read an Excerpt

 


1

Referral

 

It is said that a good lawyer doesn�t have to advertise. If' he's competent and treats his clients fairly and honestly he'll get all the business he could ever handle from referrals. I liked this concept because advertising was expensive and demeaning. In my years as an attorney I'd never spent a nickle on advertising and I was proud of that fact. But when I started law practice I never expected to get referrals from the CIA.

 

It was the last Saturday in May 1990 when I was advised that another referral was coming my way from the Agency. Our third son, Peter, was a member of the Travis High School debate team and had just made it to the state finals. Peter had won all three of his debates and ranked third among all the debaters. What was most surprising about this was that he was only in the 9th grade and one of the youngest participants in the tournament.

 

To celebrate the victory we stopped at Chili's on the way home. There were eight of us: Rebekah and I, Reggi, Mark, Peter, Marcia, and Rebekah's parents, Sylvia and Howard James. Mark was feeling a little down as he had been on the same debate team for two years and his team hadn't ever come close to winning the state championship. Marcia, being the youngest, was jealous as usual. She couldn't stand it when her brothers got to do things that she couldn�t do. Reggi was oblivious to the entire matter as he had never been a debated and was preoccupied with going to UT the following year.


"We almost made it to the finals once," Mark said. "We would have if our coach hadn't been so pathetic."


"What was wrong with Mr. Johnson?" Rebekah asked.


"He was a moron," Mark replied. "All he was interested in was flirting with the cute girls in the class.


"Don't call your teacher a moron," I said stifling a laugh.


"What do you mean by flirting?" Rebakah asked.


"If the girls asked for help on their research he'd be all over it, but if one of the guys asked he�d tell us to figure it out for ourselves."


"Hmm. That's not so unusual," I replied. "Men tend to lose their focus when there�s a pretty girl around."


"Yes. Your father knows all about that," Rebekah noted.


I frowned at her. She was referring to my weakness for pretty women that had gotten me in trouble on a few occasions. That was a thing of the past but Rebekah couldn't resist reminding me of it from time to time.


"I'm going to be on the debate team and I bet we go to state," Marcia said.


"I bet you will," Peter said.


"It's not that easy," Mark snapped. "You have to do lots of research and practice all the time."


"Well, I will. Don't worry. I'll do whatever it takes," Marcia replied.


"But i's not just you. The whole team's got to be good. It's so frustrating sometimes."


"Okay, okay. No more arguing," I said. "Tonight we are celebrating Peter's victory. You did very well tonight, Peter. Your mother and I are very proud of you."


"Well, it wasn't just me. Like Mark says, the whole team had to do well for us to win."


"You were the best though," Marcia said smiling broadly.


"Thank you, Sis. When you go out for the team next year, I'll give you some pointers."


"Oh. Cool. Thanks."


Mark shook his head. "I think I'm going to throw up."


I started to laugh but was interrupted by my cell phone. "Hello."

"Stan?"


"Yes."


"This is Mo."


"Oh, hi," I said somewhat startled. It was unusual for mo to call me.


Usually I called him at an answering service and then he'd call me back. Mo was a CIA operative who I'd worked with for several years. We first met when he came to me to file bankruptcy. When the case was over he said the Agency was so impressed with the job I'd done for him that they were going to refer me more business. He also indicated if I ever needed any help on anything just to give him a call.


It took awhile for me to understand what Mo was talking about. I couldn't figure out what agency he was talking about. Then it hit me. He worked for the CIA and they were apparently funding some of their covert operations on credit and then having their agents file bankruptcy. It seemed so bizarre I finally decided Mo had just been messing with me and forgot about it.


A year or two later I was defending a young girl accused of killing her baby. It was a pretty difficult case because my client, Sarah Winters, didn't remember giving birth and had no clue what had happened to her baby. To complicate matters there�d been threats again me and my family. They�d even poisoned our dog. Being desperate to find out who was behind these threats I called Mo for help. I wasn't sure he was really a CIA agent, or if he was, that he'd remember his offer to help me, but he did and said he was glad I'd called.


"I've got that information you wanted."


"Oh, that was fast."


"Well, you said you were in a hurry."


"I was. Thank you."


One of my clients was getting ready to sign a contract with a Chinese company for a road construction project. They were a little concerned about the company they were dealing with and asked me to check them out. They'd heard horror stories of contractors going to China and not being paid or ending up in jail for not having the proper governmental permissions.


"Go outside. I'm on the patio."


"You're here?"


"Yes, don't make a fuss. Just excuse yourself."


Rebekah frowned when I stood up. I smiled and shook my head. "Sorry, I've got to take this outside."


Mo was sitting on the patio with a beer in one hand and his cell phone in the other. As I walked over to him I wondered why he had decided to give me the results of his investigation in person. A telephone call would have been quite adequate. I sat down.


"Another beer over here," Mo yelled to the bar maid. "So, anyway. The company you asked me to check out seems to be legit and has the backing of the Chinese government. They probably don�t have anything to worry about."


"Good. This is going to be quite a lucrative contract for him."


"I must warn you though, the situation can change over there quickly."


"Really. So, how would we know if the situation is changing?"

Mo pulled out an envelope. "Here. This is a list of useful contacts over there for your client. These are people he should get to know well. They'll warn him if there�s any potential trouble on the horizon."


"Thank you. This is more than I expected."

 

"Well, we consider you a valuable asset. I�m glad we were able to help. We owed you one anyway after the Huntington mess."


"Yeah, well you saved my life, so I'm not complaining."


"Yes, but if we hadn't put your life in jeopardy I wouldn't have had to. . . . But, I'm glad there's no hard feelings."


"No. Not at all. I understand these cases get complicated."


"Good, because we may have to refer you another one, and it's really complicated."


My pulse quickened. I liked working with Mo and helping out the CIA. It was exciting and the patriotic thing to do, but I didn't like working in the shadows with very little idea what was going on. It was dangerous too and Rebekah would be upset if I took another assignment from Mo.


"Sure, no problem," I said swallowing hard.


"Its a divorce case."


"A divorce case? But I don't handle divorce cases."


"You need to handle this one."


"No. I'm a Catholic. I don't believe in divorce. But, my partner could do it. She doesn't like handling divorce cases much but she's done them before when her criminal docket was slow."


"Okay, hopefully the wife were talking about will change her mind and not go through with the divorce, but if she can�t be dissuaded then we'll refer her to Paula, but we'll expect you to oversee the work."


"Of course, but I doubt she'll need any oversight. She's very competent."


I noticed Peter walk out the front door, so I got up."I've got to get back. We're celebrating Peters accomplishments on the debate team.".


"Yes, he's a smart boy," Mo said. "Is he going to be a hot shot lawyer like his father?"


"That's up to him. I'd never push one of my children into the legal profession or any profession for that matter. It's a decision they have to make themselves."


Mo nodded as Peter walked up. "Dad, mom's sent me to look for you."


"Right," I said smiling at Peter. "Just ran into an old friend."


Mo stood up and we shook hands. "Nice running into you, Stan. Take care."


We went back inside but I couldn't concentrate on the celebration. My mind kept wondering why the CIA was referring us a divorce. It was obviously a disgruntled wife, but whose wife? Was it the wife of an agent, a foreign diplomat, a military officer, or...? The possibilities were endless. In any event, I just prayed it would be routine, but somehow I knew that wouldn't be the case.


  

2

Windsor vs. Windsor

 

Since the first day out of law school I'd pretty much been a workaholic. It comes with the territory when you're a young attorney trying to get established. I went directly to the DA's office out of law school and as an assistant DA was expected to work eighty hours a week. Nothing changed when I came to work for Stan Turner and we formed the law firm of Turner and Waters, P.C. I suppose I could have cut my hours a bit and started living a more normal life, but now I was a partner and things were different. Stan didn't have the time or inclination to hover over me to make sure I was doing my job. He expected me to do it and never questioned how I went about it. I appreciated his attitude but also felt the weight of responsibility thrust upon me.


When we first formed the partnership, I was in love with Stan and hoped he'd fall in love with me. Unfortunately that didn't happen and I was forced to face reality and move on. Not that I�d gotten entirely over Stan, for I hadn't, but I finally realized that our relationship could only be professional and decided that any relationship was better than nothing. Things had certainly changed now that I was married to Bart Williams. He was a strong, patient, thoughtful man who would do anything for me. I certainly didn't deserve him, but I was glad he�d stuck by me. Now it was hard to get up early each morning and leave him and when afternoon came, I started thinking of getting home and being together. It was amazing. I actually had a life outside Turner and Waters! Unfortunately, we were as busy as ever and as much as I wanted to go home early, I found myself hard at work until seven or eight every night. Fortunately, Bart had the same problem working at the Collin County DA's office in McKinney thirty miles north of Dallas, so we learned to appreciate what little time we did have together.


As I sat at my desk early one morning I gazed at my calendar to see what was on tap for the day and noted that I had an appointment at 11:30 a.m. with a Cheryl Windsor about a possible divorce. I didn't usually do divorces, but Jodie, our legal assistant, informed me Ms. Windsor had been indirectly referred by Stan's wife, Rebekah. She suggested the least I could do would be to talk to her. The funny thing is, once you talk to a prospective client, it's hard to turn down their case, even if you know you should.


It was late August and there was no sign of an end to the summer's heat, so I wasn't surprised to see Cheryl was wearing a tank top with a short jean skirt. She was gorgeous. I wondered how she managed to look so good since I knew from our phone conversation that she was blessed with three children. I hoped I would be so lucky, that is, if Bart and I ever decided to have kids. As soon as she sat down and crossed her long tanned legs, she began telling me what had gone wrong with her marriage.


"My husband is having an affair."


"Really? How do you know?"


"He's been working long hours lately and seems to use any excuse to be out of the house. We haven't had sex in months. I didn't want to accuse him of anything until I knew for sure he was being unfaithful, so I followed him after work one night."


I raised my eyebrows and replied, "That's quite gutsy of you. Most women would have hired a private detective."


"Hey, I'm not most women," Cheryl said, "I'm not going to let that son of a bitch humiliate me. If he's screwing around, he's gonna pay."


"And he should, but there's no reason to take chances. We live in a dangerous world and you shouldn't take risks like that."


Cheryl shook her head. "Don't worry about me. My father was an ex-Marine, so he taught me how to defend myself."


"Even so--"


"Besides, I grew up with three older brothers, so I learned how to handle men early on."


I nodded. "So where did your husband end up?"


"At the Fairmount Hotel, room 1612. I got the number from the desk clerk. I told him I'd forgotten what room my husband and I were in. You know. They all look alike. He made me show him my ID but that wasn't a problem. I watched the elevator and thirty-five minutes later a woman took the elevator to the 16th floor."


"So, that doesn't necessarily mean---"


"I know exactly what it means. The woman was my best friend�my maid of honor at our wedding for godsakes. It couldn't have been a coincidence. They're having an affair and I'm going to kill both of them!"


"Wait a minute. Calm down. You're not going to kill anybody."


"He's had a thing for her from the first day they met," she said tearfully. "I could tell by the way he always looked at her, but I never expected Alice to give in to him. She and I have been best friends since we were fifteen."


I handed Cheryl a tissue and replied, "I know it's hard when you've been betrayed by the two people in the world that you love the most, but in today's world it's not that unusual. Loyalty is a scarce commodity."


Cheryl folded her arms and looked away. I opened a file and pulled out a divorce questionnaire. It was yellow from age. I didn't like divorces much and avoided them whenever possible, but I kinda liked Cheryl's feisty personality. "From now on you let me handle this. I don't want you talking to your husband, or Alice for that matter. It will just rekindle your anger. I'll get a temporary restraining order so you can stay in the house and he can't abscond with any of your community property."


"I don't want the house--too many bad memories. I'll move out. Just make sure I get a nice fat alimony check."


"They don't have alimony in Texas, but I can get you temporary support until the divorce is final and, of course, child support."


"Good. How much?"


"I don't know. It depends on his income and other factors."


"He makes a lot of money�more than two hundred grand a year."


"Then you'll probably get 25 to 40 percent of his after tax income since


it's community property. . . . What's your husband's name?"


"Martin Roger Windsor."


"What does he do for a living?"


"He's a pharmacist by trade, but more of a businessman nowadays."


"Where is he employed?"


"Village Drugs in Richardson is where he hangs his license. He owns the place along with twelve stores just like it in North Texas, but he doesn't spend much time filling prescriptions."


Cheryl said that Martin was thirty-nine years old, a graduate of Central European University in Hungary, and since he had immigrated to the United States, had become an avid golfer.


"Windsor isn't a Hungarian name, is it?"


"No. His real name was Martin Kutrovatzlik. Nobody could pronounce it so he had it changed. He said it was a distraction he didn't need when he was doing business. He thought it was better to be perceived as British or American anyway."


She said he would often take off for weeks at a time to play in amateur golf tournaments across the country and around the world. He had a bad temper, she said, and would be very upset when he found out she was filing for divorce. I assured her the TRO would protect her, as Martin would not want to prejudice the judge against him. That would be suicide if he had a lot of assets to protect.


"Speaking of assets, what all do you own?" I asked.


She shrugged. "This may surprise you, but I really don't know. Martin is very secretive about our financial affairs. I know he owns the drugstores, of course, and there's lots of cash. Our home is worth about $550,000 according to the tax bill I got in the mail the other day. There's a shopping center where one of the stores is located. I heard him tell someone it was appraised at 1.2 million. There are a few stocks, bonds, and a $10,000 CD."


"So, do you have many debts?"


"No. None at all. My husband doesn't believe in credit. He always said if you didn't have the cash to pay for it, you didn't need it."


"Hmm. Interesting. So that adds up to about two million without the drugstores."


"That I know about. I'm sure there's more."


"Well, we can do some discovery to find out exactly what he has, and if he is less than forthright with his responses, I know a private investigator who can help us locate everything."


"I doubt your PI will find anything. My husband is very good at hiding money and covering his tracks. His first wife Barbara and I are friends, and we compare notes from time to time. She told me when they were going through their divorce she hired the best divorce attorney in town, but he couldn't find squat. Fortunately, Martin didn't like the attorney probing into his affairs so he offered a huge amount of child support if she'd make him back off."


"Well, if you have any other ideas, I'm listening."


"I do, but I need to verify a few suspicions before I can share them with you."


"Okay. Let me know when you're ready to fill me in."


I escorted her out into the reception area and met Stan coming in the door. His eyes lit up when he saw Cheryl. He nodded at me without taking his eyes off of her. A few moments later, when I was back in my office, Stan walked in and asked, "So, who was that?"


"A new divorce client, Cheryl Windsor."


"Hmm. She's a knockout. Is she a model?"


"No, she's a housewife," I replied.


Stan shook his head. "And some bastard's divorcing her?"


"She's divorcing him�couldn't keep his dick in his pants."


"Not a smart guy. . . . Do you need any help on her case?"


Stan looked at me expectantly. I couldn't believe the gleam in his eye. I felt like strangling him. Cheryl had turned him on like a light switch. "Stan. Must I remind you you're a married man?"


"What, now that you're married, you've become Rebekah's best friend and guardian?"


"What?" I gasped. It was ironic. From the first day I joined the firm I had tried to subvert Stan's marriage and win his affections. It hadn't worked. I thought I had my feelings for Stan under control, but his overt attraction to Cheryl had irritated me�rekindled a jealous obsession that I'd thought was buried. If I couldn't lure him away from his wife, I certainly wasn't going to let some other bitch do it! "Something like that. . . .


Anyway I should warn you Cheryl was referred to us by one of

Rebekah's friends, so I'd play it cool."


"Okay. Relax. I'm just admiring a pretty woman like any red blooded male would do under the same circumstances. I have no intention---"


"Yeah, well, we both know you're not perfect."


Stan gave me a hard look. "I guess you've proven that, huh?" he mumbled as he left my office.


That incident occurred the night before my wedding. Even though I'd officially given up on him and was about to marry Bart, I found myself trying one last time to seduce him. By then it was kind of a game for me�a challenge I couldn't resist. Much to my shock he gave in and kissed me passionately. I could have had him then and there, minutes before my wedding, but then it finally hit me like an avalanche. I couldn't do it. I couldn't destroy Stan, the man I truly loved, and that's what would have happened had I took Stan away from his wife and family. So, I married Bart and I have no regrets. Now I have both the men I love in my life. At least that's what I keep telling myself.


After stewing over this for several minutes I got back to work. I had a divorce to prosecute, a client to protect from a wayward husband, and assets to find. I didn't have time to brood over my shattered heart.