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Authors: Kathy Hogan Trocheck

Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Retired Reporter - Florida

Kathy Hogan Trocheck - Truman Kicklighter 01 - Lickety-Split

BOOK: Kathy Hogan Trocheck - Truman Kicklighter 01 - Lickety-Split
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Kathy Hogan Trocheck - Truman Kicklighter 01 - Lickety-Split
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Truman Kicklighter
Kathy Hogan Trocheck
HarperTorch (1995)
Tags:
Mystery: Cozy - Retired Reporter - Florida
Truman Kicklighter, widower and former AP reporter living in the Fountain of Youth Residence Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida, has lots on his plate as a bogus evangelist announces plans to take over the hotel and evict the retirees who don't buy their apartments. Then his best friend, a man whose decline into Alzheimer's is appallingly speedy, is accused of killing a young woman tout at the dog track.
Aided by a feisty young Fountain of Youth waitress named Jackleen, Truman tries to uncover the evangelist's scam and find the tout's murderer. The latter effort, centering around the missing computer disk with the murder victim's new betting program, takes him up against the evangelist's brassy, ambitious secretary, a couple of low-life thugs for hire and a representative of organized crime.
Lickety-Split
Lickety Split

A TRUMAN KICKLIGHTER MYSTERY

by

Mary Kay Andrews writing as Kathy Hogan Trocheck

 

Smashwords Edition 2011

Copyright © 1996 Kathy Hogan Trocheck

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

Originally published by HarperCollins

 

This book is dedicated to the memory of my dad, John Patrick
Hogan, who let me dance on his shoe tops

 

AUTHOR’S NOTE:

When the print version of this book was published in 1996, cell phones and DVD-players were considered the wave of the distant future—as were books you could download onto a palm-sized wireless device. So please, take a time travel backwards, and enjoy the ride!

Chapter ONE

 

Truman Kicklighter speared a bit of ham floating squarely in the middle of his split pea soup and smiled.

Friday was split pea soup day at the Ponce de Leon Room. Usually your chances of finding a piece of real meat in your bowl were about as good as the Tampa Bay Bucs’ chances of winning a Super Bowl. Which meant not hardly.

He crumbled a corn muffin into the soup and flagged down Jackleen Canaday, who was speeding past with a bowl of cherry-banana Jell-O for Gladys Young, two tables over, who always ate dessert for lunch.

“Say, what about the fruit cup?” he asked.

Jackleen put on the brakes and backed up. “What about the fruit cup, Mr. K? You want dessert already?” She was watching Mr. Loring, at table three, counting out five pennies for her tip. And she’d made a special trip to the kitchen to get him toast instead of a roll, too.

“No. I don’t want the fruit cup at all,” Truman said. “That pineapple they put in it makes my tongue break out.”

As Mr. Loring strolled past her in a cloud of mothballs, Jackleen sniffed and put him on her mental shit list. See if she gave him toast again. Not in this lifetime, buddy.

“Well, what do you want me to do about your dessert?” she asked, still distracted. The pennies were Canadian. It figured.

Mr. K was actually one of her favorite customers. New in the last six months, he was always careful to leave a straight 10 percent tip, and at Christmas he’d brought her a box of dusting powder and some chocolate-covered cherries.

Truman gave her a hopeful look. “Any of that apple pie left from dinner last night?”

She rolled her eyes. They were big and brown and expressive. And when she wore her hair straight, teased up on top, some people said she looked like Diana Ross, only with better boobs.

“Honey, you know that got gone. I got a dish of tapioca I could bring you instead. How ‘bout that?”

“Never mind,” Truman said quickly. “How about bringing me some more corn muffins and some more coffee?”

“I’ll see,” she said doubtfully.

But on her next sweep through the dining room she hotted up his coffee cup with a fresh pot and quickly slipped two steaming muffins into the roll basket on Truman’s table.

“I saw that,” a voice boomed out from the table directly to Truman’s right.

Sonya Hoffmayer glared and waggled a finger at them. If there was one person at the Fountain of Youth Residential Hotel who got on Truman’s nerves, it was Mrs. Hoffmayer. She was in her eighties, tall and thin, with iron-gray hair, beetling eyebrows, and a family connection to the owners of the hotel, which meant she thought she owned the place. Truman didn’t know which was worse, Sonya or KoKo, the miniature schnauzer she carried with her everywhere in her pocketbook.

“Preferential treatment,” she screeched. “I only got one corn muffin in my basket. And it was cold. My nephew will hear about this. See if he doesn’t.”

KoKo raised his head up out of the pocketbook she had placed on the seat opposite her and yapped angrily in agreement.

“Uh-oh,” Jackleen said under her breath. “She already told on me last week ‘cause my work shoes weren’t polished. And the week before that she said I gave her coffee instead of decaf and she had a dizzy spell and nearly passed out. That biddy’s gonna get me fired for sure.”

“Better make nice,” Truman said in a low voice.

Jackleen forced a stiff smile. “Oh, I’m sorry, Mrs. Hoffmayer, would you like another muffin? I was just coming to your table to check on you.”

“You’re sure they’re fresh?” Mrs. Hoffmayer asked, her chins quivering.

“Right out of the oven,” Jackie said from between clenched teeth.

“Well. Maybe two. The soup was thin today. And KoKo does love muffins.”

“I’d like to poison the both of ‘em,” Jackie said under her breath. She sighed and then stormed off to the kitchen for more muffins.

Truman nodded sympathetically and shot Mrs. Hoffmayer a dirty look. But she was busy letting KoKo lick the remnants of the soup from her bowl and didn’t see him.

In a moment, Jackie was back, depositing the muffins on Mrs. Hoffmayer’s table and apologizing again for the oversight.

“Don’t overdo it,” Truman warned her as she approached his table again. “That kind, if she figures she can get under your skin, she’ll only get worse.”

“Easy for you to say,” Jackie muttered. “She can’t tell nothin’ on you.”

He didn’t mention the hot plate and the tiny refrigerator he’d installed in his room, strictly against the rules. As was his habit of using two dryers at once in the basement laundry room and sneaking a cigar in the lobby after supper. Sonya Hoffmayer patrolled the hotel hallways and public areas like a rabbit-hungry beagle, snout down, always on the lookout for scofflaws like himself.

Instead he took a sip of coffee and looked down at the sports section of the
St. Petersburg Times
. He’d folded the page into a neat square and was scribbling notes on the page.

“You going to the dog track tonight?”

He looked up from his calculations. “It’s Snowbird Special night. You know the Wisnewskis? Mel and Pearl? They’re going too. They’ve got a free bus picking people up in front of all the downtown hotels. The Snowbird Special, they call it.”

“Yeah, I know them,” Jackleen said, setting her pot down on the table to get a better look at the sports page. “Don’t they live in Pittsburgh?”

“They got in last night,” Truman said, frowning slightly. “Mel was real tired. Pearl said he gets that way now. Has spells. But he’ll be fine tonight.”

“Hope so,” she said. “Mr. Wisnewski, he’s a real nice man. Likes hot tea instead of coffee, two eggs over easy. I didn’t know you knew him.”

“That’s why I moved over here,” Truman said. “After my wife died and I sold the house. Mel and Pearl talked me into it. That Mel could talk the birds out of the trees.”

“Um-humm.” She wasn’t really listening, but was looking down at the listings. “I never been to the greyhound races.”

“You want me to make a bet for you?” he offered. “Two dollars. Tell me your lucky numbers. That’s how Nellie used to bet. Never did look at the dogs. Just bet our anniversary, or Cheryl’s birthday.”

She fumbled in the pocket of her apron, jingling the silver. She brought out a fistful of quarters and counted out eight, laying them in two piles of four on top of the newspaper. “My birthday’s February 17. Two-one-seven. Will that work?”

He looked down at the listings. “The Old Perfesser likes a two-one-seven in the third. I’ll play you a quinella. That suit you?”

She nodded and he raked the quarters into his hand and tucked them into a small black leather change purse.

“What’s my cut if you win?”

She glanced down at the paper again. The two dog was named Attaboy, the one was Little Darlin’, and the seven was called Mabel’s Black Label. She said the names out loud, for luck, then glanced around to make sure she couldn’t be overheard by you-know-who.

“Double desserts for a month.”

Truman Kicklighter was built sort of like a greyhound himself, lean. If Nellie hadn’t given his Marines uniform to the Goodwill years ago, he bet he could still get into it. Five eight, 128 pounds, that’s what he weighed, and he could eat as many bowls of peach cobbler and ice cream as he wanted without it ever changing.

“Deal,” he said, slapping the table for emphasis.

“Gotta go,” Jackleen said, jerking her head toward Mrs. Hoffmayer, who was clearing her throat loudly.

Truman deftly transferred the corn muffins to a paper napkin and transferred them again to the pocket of his navy-blue cardigan sweater. He liked a snack around four o’clock. When his Nellie was alive, she’d tuck something in his briefcase for his snack. Some vanilla wafers, maybe one of her homemade butterscotch brownies. No matter where he was or what he was doing, he’d stop work at four, have his snack, call home and see what she was up to.

“Trying to get some supper made, if you’ll quit calling and pestering me,” she’d say, acting like she was fussing, but secretly glad he called.

After he’d retired last year, she’d made it a new routine. He’d be out in the yard puttering around, or working on his scrapbook, finally clipping out all those stories he’d written over the years, and she’d make him stop for his snack. They’d have their four o’clock together, maybe sit outside and watch the birds at the birdfeeder he’d put up for her, or take a walk, if it wasn’t too hot.

And then, like that, she was gone. It was after breakfast one day. She was going to go to the grocery store, but changed her mind at the last minute, said she had a headache. Truman went instead. And when he got home, there was an ambulance parked at the curb, lights whirling, and the paramedics were saying it must have been a stroke. He could still see the brown paper sacks of groceries sitting, untouched, in the front seat of the car. Ice cream melting, lettuce wilting in the relentless Florida sun.

BOOK: Kathy Hogan Trocheck - Truman Kicklighter 01 - Lickety-Split
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