Crimes In The Key Of MurderJust as Carver Moreau finished playing "Caravan" on the piano, someone hoisted him off his bench. Someone, no doubt, who didn't realize they'd bitten off more than they could chew.
Because Carver was a world-class hand-to-hand fighter in the employ of none other than Sister Mayhem, bane of the underworld.
As powerful hands held Carver aloft, two men lunged from the shadows of the smoke-filled Kansas City dance hall. Both men wore pink tuxedos with white carnations in the lapels--the trademark attire of the Dreamboats, the big band for which Carver had been auditioning.
Lashing out with his legs, Carver kicked one of the men--the bald one with the black goatee--in the chest, knocking him down. The other man, however, landed a two-fisted blow in Carver's stomach.
Before the second man could hit him again, Carver pumped a knee into his side. As the man cried out and spun away, Carver swung both legs back hard, cracking his Oxfords into the shins of whoever was holding him.
The strong hands gripping his upper arms let go, and Carver dropped to the floor. Pivoting, he saw a man with shaggy blond hair and the brawn of a gorilla.
Before the gorilla-like goon could recover, Carver--trained in hand-to-hand combat by Sister Mayhem herself--belted him square in the jaw. As the gorilla-man went down, Carver whirled, expecting an attack from another direction. Instead, he heard someone clapping beyond the spotlit stage.
Carver shaded his eyes from the spotlight with one caramel-brown hand. Squinting at the shadowy tables, he saw that one woman was doing the clapping...and he recognized her. As she rose from her seat, the folds of her red satin dress draped over her voluptuous body, highlighting every curve. Her long red hair seemed to catch fire when she glided into the blazing spotlight.
Her name was Sheila Venus, and she was the leader of the Dreamboats. She was the one Carver had been playing piano for when the three men had attacked him.
"Congratulations," she said in a throaty, sultry voice. "You passed the audition."
Carver looked around at the three men scattered on the dirty dance hall floor. "That was part of the audition?" "I don't want another piano player who gets himself killed," said Sheila.
Carver nodded. He knew all about the piano player who had gotten himself killed. That man was the whole reason Carver was here, undercover, using his classical piano training to win a spot in a crooked big band.
That man, the dead piano player, had been Carver's brother, Lee.
* * * *
"Hello, Bud," said Trudy Moreau as she shook her husband Carver's hand. "It's very nice to meet you."
"Likewise, Tanya." Carver smiled and made a little bow. While working undercover to infiltrate the Dreamboats, Mr. and Mrs. Carver Moreau--both agents in the secret crimefighting Order of Sister Mayhem--were going by the names "Bud Gulliver" and "Tanya Hamilton."
"Do you know, 'Someone to Watch Over Me?'" said Trudy.
Carver nodded. "Good luck," he said, and then he sat down at the piano and played the song she'd requested.
Trudy cleared her throat, smoothed her white dress, and started to sing. Beyond the rim of the dance hall spotlight, Sheila Venus sat at a table, smoking, drinking, and listening.
As Carver's fingers caressed the chipped piano keys, he looked around the smoky hall. He felt strange being there in his brother Lee's place, playing the same song Lee must have played hundreds of times.
This was how it must have looked to Lee--same piano, same smoke, same Sheila--but Carver knew there was more beneath the surface. He wondered what lurked there, just beyond the spotlight, just out of sight. He wondered what had taken his brother's life.