|The real-life Menger Hotel, San Antonio, Texas|
Kathleen Kaska writes the awarding-winning Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series. The Lockhart mysteries are set in the early 1950s at historic hotels that are still in operation today. Her newly released, Run Dog Run, is the first in the Kate Caraway Mystery Series. Today she gives us a glimpse into Sydney’s world. Learn more about Kathleen and her books at her website.
I ducked into an alley behind the Alamo and waited in the darkness of a crumbling doorway. The guy who’d been following me passed close enough for me to reach out and grab him, which I was about to do when I realized he was a woman in a trench coat. I quietly slipped my gun from my shoulder holster, but the squeak of metal against leather caused her to jerk around. She looked me straight in the eye.
“Who are you?”
“I need to talk to you.”
That’s the last thing I needed. I was on my way back to the Menger Hotel, having given the cops enough time—I hoped—to remove Johnny Pine’s dead body from the hotel room next to mine. Johnny was a no-good bookie who was shot dead last night. I’d been following him from Austin, trying to recover money he’d stolen from our client. I’d also been tailing Nora Jasper, his girlfriend, and the most likely killer, when I realized someone was tailing me.
“You didn’t answer my question, who are you and what do you want?”
“My name is Lola Middletown and I’ve been following your career.”
“Which one?” In a little more than a year, I’d gone from schoolteacher, to reporter (which I still am), to detective.
“I’m a reporter for the San Antonio Express, or at least I hope to be. Right now I’m taking classified ads over the phone.”
I could sympathize. My first job at the newspaper was proofing obits and bringing coffee to my cranky editor.
Lola removed her fedora and a mop of blond curls fell down to her shoulders. She couldn’t have been more than eighteen. “Can I buy you a beer?” she asked.
“You don’t look old enough to drink. Besides, I can’t disclose case details to the public. I’m sure you understand.”
“This interview is off the record. I just want to know how you do it. How you got started in the business?”
I looked down the block toward the Menger and saw the cop cars still crowding the hotel’s drive. What the heck, I thought. “You got thirty minutes. Frank’s place is down the street. Let’s go.”
We settled into a dark booth in the corner. I ordered two Lone Stars. The waiter didn’t ask for Lola’s ID. “Okay, go. The clock’s ticking.”
“How did you get started in the detective business?”
“The story will take all day. Short version—another hotel, another dead body, a gorgeous detective who suspected me as the killer. I changed his mind and we joined forces.”
“The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas,” she said without looking up from her note pad.
“That’s the one.”
“Why hotels? You always seemed to investigate murders that take place in hotels. After the Arlington, there was the Luther Hotel in Palacios, Texas, then the Hotel Galvez in Galveston, and the Driskill in Austin.”
“Good question. I’ve tried to figure that out myself. The only thing I can come up with is, what better place for a murder?”
“Do you ever get the feeling trouble follows you?’
“That’s my mother’s favorite question to me. I don’t believe it follows me, but I do believe I attract it.”
Lola shot a glance over my shoulder and drew in a quick breath. “Miss Lockhart, I hate to tell you this, but there’s a strange guy standing by the door. It looks like he’s trying to get your attention.”
“What does he look like?”
“Short, about sixty, sandy-colored hair.”
“He’s coming this way.”
Taco slid into the booth next to me. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything important, Miss Lockhart.”
“Taco’s my taxi driver.”
“You have you own taxi driver?” Lola asked, scribbling more notes.
“Not usually, but my car was stolen.”
“Miss Lockhart, we need to get out of here fast,” Taco said.
“What’s up now?”
“I just got word there’s a warrant out for your arrest for the murder of Johnny Pine.”
“Not again. If I were you, Lola, I’d stick to taking classified ads.”
“Where to, Taco?”
“How about New Orleans?”
I threw four bits on the table and left.
Murder at the Menger in my current work in progress. Look for it in 2018. In the meantime, here’s a brief account of my latest Sydney Lockhart mystery.
Murder at the Driskill
Another hotel; another murder; another Sydney Lockhart mystery.
You’d think that newspaper reporter Sydney Lockhart, comfortable at home in Austin, Texas, could stay away from hotels and murders therein. But when she and her detective boyfriend, Ralph Dixon, hang out a shingle for their new detective agency, they immediately land a high-profile case, which sends them to the swanky Driskill Hotel. Businessman Stringer Maynard has invited them to a party to meet his partner/brother-in-law, Leland Tatum, who’s about to announce his candidacy for governor. Maynard needs their help because Tatum is hanging out with the wrong crowd and jeopardizing his chances for winning the election. Before Sydney can finish her first martini, a gunshot sounds and Leland Tatum is found murdered in a suite down the hall.