Title: A Scandal at Crystalline
Author: Roslyn Reid
Chandler Hammond’s wife says he and his hot Iraqi girlfriend skipped out of their Maine town of Finderne with his company’s millions. But his sister thinks his wife murdered him and hires detective James Early and his teenage son Tikki to find the truth. A Scandal at Crystalline follows them through an intriguing maze of unexpected encounters: financial shenanigans, two beautiful women who were sleeping with each other (and with Chandler Hammond), a police psychic, and a runaway kid in a remote mountain cabin. But things turn dark when their investigation forces them to consider the unimaginable—the sinister side of raku pottery.
He pulled out one of the newspaper articles. The headline kicked off in the usual fashion: “Horrifying Incident on Elm Street.”
Corporate executive McKinley Hammond was abducted from his driveway early yesterday morning. Police have his family under twenty-four-hour guard and the children are not allowed to return to school. At this point, there are no ransom demands and no suspects.
No ransom demands? Early wondered what the kidnappers had been waiting for. Demands for ransom were usually issued within hours of the crime. He flipped to the next article, dated several days later.
Last night McKinley Hammond’s family received a ransom note from his abductors, who are calling themselves the Malamoosic Liberation Front. Police say the group is demanding one million dollars and an airplane to take them to Nicaragua before they will return Hammond. The note claims the money will be used to fund the “revolution.”
Early found no further documentation of any kind for about a week’s time. Then the story picked up fast and furious with a lengthy newspaper article about the kidnappers’ capture and Hammond’s rescue.
The note instructed the family to place the money into a brown paper bag and leave the bag in a certain trash can in Greenway Park. After Mrs. Hammond did so, police kept the trash can under surveillance and arrested the abductors when they showed up to retrieve the money.
Early rolled his eyes. No wonder their ransom demand took such a long time; they were amateurs. Even worse than being kidnapped is being kidnapped by dumbasses. The Malamoosic Liberation Front sounded like the kind of clueless sixties radical group that went around blowing up buildings for no reason other than to make a nuisance of themselves. He returned to the article.
During the week, the police department stopped an unusually large number of speeders who turned out to be FBI agents chasing down sightings of the white van supposedly used by the kidnappers. When the FBI complained about the traffic stops, the local police department said they had never been informed that federal agents were on the case or even in the area. The police thought they were apprehending the usual traffic violators. No white van was ever located in connection with the case.
Early chuckled about the infighting and the fact that the white van had been a red herring, so to speak. That phantom white van seemed to turn up in many cases he and the Finderne police had handled. What is it about white vans?
He skipped to the conclusion of the case:
After their interrogation, the abductors led detectives to where they had chained Hammond to a steam pipe in the basement of an abandoned school building. Police said he was unharmed but could have used a shower and a good meal. He was returned to his family, who presumably took care of the matter.
The article ended with the details about the charges and the trial date, and a picture of McKinley Hammond reuniting with his family. His wife was crying into his chest. Honoria was at the bottom of the picture, clinging to her father’s leg, while Chandler held onto one of his arms. Apparently, the story had gone cold after that because it was the last newspaper clipping in the file.
Early wondered why the group had targeted Hammond. Victims weren’t usually chosen at random. He had even heard of a case where a group had broken into the headquarters of some high-profile activists supported by the rich and famous to obtain addresses of the wealthy people who had signed their petitions. But there was no indication the Hammond family had a lot of money—back in those days, corporate executives weren’t making obscene salaries.
Then Early came upon the final document in the case file, a police report submitted by the detective in charge. While interrogating a member of the Malamoosic Liberation Front, he had discovered that the “Front” was really the owners of a landscaping company who claimed Hammond had gone deadbeat on several thousand dollars he owed them, and they decided kidnapping him would be the best way to get paid. Early shook his head. Even though the Hammonds sounded like skinflints, the perps were still a bunch of dumbasses for using such an absurd approach to obtain redress.
The report said because the family felt like they had become a target for criminals, they had decided to leave Massachusetts and relocate to Maine. That explained how Chandler Hammond and his Crystalline Art Distributorship had ended up in the unlikely location of Finderne.
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Runs May 1 – 31, 2021.
Drawing will be held on June 1, 2021.
Reid lives with her corgi, Great Pyrenees, and husband in Downeast Maine, where she gardens, lifts weights, hikes, and renovates houses. A former model, she contributed to Llewellyn's annual almanacs for several decades and has written for a few of the local newspapers. She is a member of the Author's Guild, has a blog on Goodreads, a LinkedIn account, and several boards on Pinterest. You can follow her on BookBub.
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