Title: The Obituary Page
Author: David Ackley
Publisher: Rain and Breeze Books
A stagnant case suddenly comes back to life when Robert Armlin’s cell phone shows up on the body of a Portland vagrant. Armlin, the missing Oregon Sentinel opinion page editor who was presumed to have met a bad end, becomes once again one of detective Galen Young’s primary assignments. The appearance of a ransom note only serves to increase the Portland Police Bureau’s suspicions that Armlin may still be alive but in danger.
At the same time, Galen becomes enmeshed in complications arising from a routine missing persons case. Erin Roberts was reported missing but returned home to her husband after a brief but failed affair. The news a short time later of her death from a rainy night hit-and-run comes as an unexpected shock to the detective. Nothing strikes him as suspicious about her death, however, until Galen happens to read her obituary. A single out-of-place sentence leads the detective on a search for Erin’s suspected killer – along a twisted and increasingly perilous trail.
His approaching mandatory retirement age from the Bureau, his own health, and caring for his incarcerated daughter’s sons are difficult enough, but Portland’s street demonstrations over George Floyd’s death, the global pandemic, and the detective’s unravelling home life only serve to further exacerbate problems for detective Galen Young.
Be advised: The Obituary Page is a standalone sequel to The Opinion Page but contains spoilers to that earlier mystery.
The decibel levels were off the chart, and Galen dug at the pain in his left ear as an iron bar hit the floor while pneumatic wrenches hammered and whined in the background. The busy garage had cars jacked up at five stations for tire changes. Strangely, he appreciated the noise, since it covered up much of Mike Carlson’s continuing harangue. “… couldn’t find your ass if it was welded on…” came through as Galen motioned once again that they should retreat into the Butler Tire Center’s office space so they could possibly hear each other.
Carlson yelled something to his employees on the floor and then led Galen back into a minimally quieter, and much messier room. When Mike yanked two plugs out of his ears as the door shut, the detective understood how he could bear the daily aural onslaught. The distraught garage owner sank into a swivel chair near a desk and seemed to deflate at the same time.
“I know it’s frustrating,” said Galen, leaning against the nearest wall, “but we really have nothing much more to go on. We have all-points bulletins out across the city for her or her car, and the Bureau is dedicating its resources to locating your wife.” He neglected to mention that the Portland Police Bureau was so overworked at the current time that Detective Galen Young was pretty much the extent of the resources available. And his plate was full.
“She wouldn’t just walk away,” Carlson muttered. “Something must have happened to her. You’ve checked all the hospitals? The fucking morgue? I’m just dreading that call…,” he tapered off.
“Yes, of course, we’ve checked. There’s no reason to expect that anything untoward has happened to Erin. Maybe she just needed a break or had some other reason for spending time by herself. You said that there were no problems with your marriage?”
Carlson shook his head adamantly. “No. Like I told you, everything has been fine.”
“Well, then as I’ve said previously, it would help us immensely if we could have access to her phone rec…”
“No way!” Carlson jumped in. “I told you before. I’m not having the goddamned government digging around in our personal information! Once you have that, God knows what else you’ll do with it!”
Galen could see that Carlson was winding up again, and so instead of saying, “But that is exactly the information we need to help find your wife,” he said calmly, “Well, even without it, we have a very good chance of locating your wife, so I’ll keep you apprised as soon as anything develops,” without mentioning that, as with all missing persons cases, the odds were equally good that she may never be found.
“Everything OK in here? Any news?” asked Glenn Knowles as he entered, awash in a wave of sound until the door shut behind him. “Hi, Detective,” he said as he passed by him and took a seat.
“Hello, Mr. Knowles.”
“Yeah, Glenn, it’s all good, and no. No news,” replied Carlson. Knowles was Carlson’s brother-in-law and was equally concerned about the whereabouts of his sister-in-law as Galen knew based on previous interviews with the man.
Carlson immediately started ranting to Knowles about the lack of progress in the case and unceremoniously waved Galen out of his office while he piled on his complaints. Galen’s last image of the pair was of Carlson sinking his head into his hands as he himself walked through the cacophony and outside to the quiet of his waiting car. This was the fourth time in the past two weeks that Carlson had demanded an in-person update on the status of his missing wife and he’d received much the same answer with each visit.
The detective removed his mask and put his key into the ignition, but instead of twisting it, let his hand drop into his lap. The afternoon sun glared off the opened white envelope he’d thrown on the dash that morning, and he closed his eyes to avoid it, levering his head back against the headrest. Just a moment of … he thought.
He was sure it was only seconds later when he was startled awake by the creaking of the tire center’s huge garage door being opened for another customer. Galen rubbed his face, reached for the envelope, and was rereading the notice that his upcoming mandatory retirement date was in less than a year, when he looked up as a thought came to him.
What is that quote about protesting too much? he wondered, realizing that the same could be said of Portland lately. I think I need to take a closer look into Mike Carlson and his actions around the time that Erin disappeared. He seems genuinely concerned, but won’t give us the information we need to find his wife. I think I’d better dig around a bit more, just to be on the safe side.
He wadded up the letter and tossed it on the floor mat, extracted himself from his sedan, redonned his mask, and spent the remainder of the late afternoon interviewing each of the busy garage employees about Mike Carlson and his wife Erin under the watchful gaze of the Butler Tire Center’s related co-owners.
On the drive back to headquarters, he found that he’d already mentally filed his report on this, one of the least productive cases in his current workload.
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Amazon paperback: The Obituary Page: Ackley, David: 9781950631025: Amazon.com: Books
David Ackley grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska and raised a family in Juneau. His professional career in Alaska included both fisheries biometrics and management positions with the state and federal governments. He’s earned Master’s degrees in Chinese Language and Literature (Wisconsin), and in Fisheries Science (Alaska). David is now retired and living in northern Idaho, where he began a small business in lutherie – building guitars, Irish bouzoukis, and ukuleles (www.dastringedinstruments.com). The lutherie business has flagged somewhat while he gets some stories out of his head. Please visit the Rain and Breeze Books website, www.rainandbreeze.com, for more information about David and his books.
Social Media Links:
Facebook: Rain and Breeze Books