BY: PAUL SINOR
Max Maxwell is working on a stalking case, involving the unhappily married lady he has been seeing, when he gets a call from an old army buddy, Bill Hart, who is now running an off-the-books intelligence operation in Washington, DC. Bill asks Max to help out with a situation involving another one of his associates. All Max has to do is pick up a sailboat and get it back across the Puget Sound to Seattle. He wasn’t told that Bill’s associate was working undercover and had been murdered on the boat or that the Canadian Intelligence Service, a Korean smuggling ring with a deadly mission, and a double agent might also be involved. This will turn out be a sentimental journey Max will never forget—if he even survives.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Sentimental Journey by Paul Sinor, Max Maxwell is a PI near Seattle, Washington, and he is working on a stalking case when he gets a call from an old army buddy, who is now in the intelligence business. One of his agents has been killed and he wants Max to find out why, how, and who. Max takes the job reluctantly, when his friend tells him it will be a snap. A snap it’s not. Before Max knows it, he’s up to his ears in sailboats, murder, foreign agents, and espionage. Now if he can just survive the investigation.
Sinor’s plot and character development are excellent, his action fast paced, and the story intriguing. Combining mystery and suspense with a hint of romance, he has created a tale you’ll want to read more than once.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Sentimental Journey by Paul Sinor reunites us with Mike “Max” Maxwell, a northwest Washington, private investigator who ekes out a living doing skip tracing, insurance investigations, and stalking cases. This story is a sequel to Dancing in the Dark, but this one is told from several POVs, and not just Max’s like the first book was. And that made me enjoy it all the more. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the first book, but this one was especially intriguing. Max gets a call from an old boss in the army and is plunged headfirst back into the intelligence business. This time, his old boss, Bill Hart, want him to act as a liaison and retrieve the body of a murdered agent. Which Max does. Then Bill wants to know why the agent was killed and by whom. That investigation involves smugglers, spies, and killers, and Max has just stuck a target on his own back.
Sentimental Journey is exciting, refreshing, and fascinating—an intriguing mystery with an element of international espionage and romance that make it one you won’t want to put down.
When I went into a restaurant or any other place, I liked to sit in the back. My favorite place was called the gunfighter’s seat. It was the back booth in the coffee shop where I normally eat breakfast if I wanted something more than coffee and a bagel. I was headed for the back when I picked up a copy of the Seattle morning newspaper as I walked by a recently vacated table. The waitress—a young woman in her early twenties, three tattoos that I could see, blonde hair pulled back in a bun on the back of her head, and slightly smeared lipstick—followed me to the table.
“You come in here a lot, don’t you?” she asked as she flipped the first page of the green lined book that served as her order pad.
“Yes, I guess I do. I think you waited on me earlier this week.” I tried my best to be cordial at the early hour I found myself sitting in the Tree Topper Diner on Aurora Avenue just north of Seattle, Washington.
“Yeah, I always remember the good tippers.” She smiled as either a gesture of friendship or to get me to remember that I left what she considered a big tip and she expected me to do it again.
“Eggs over, yellow runny, whites done, sourdough, crisp bacon, and sliced tomatoes.” She had already placed a mug of coffee in front of me, so there was no need to order that.
“I remember the tomatoes. Not many people ask for them.” She took the order and walked to the counter where she placed it on a revolving wheel in an opening between the counter and the cook station.
I picked up the paper and rearranged the sections until I had them in order. I wasn’t terribly interested in the headlines, but a small article at the bottom of page one caught my attention. Body of man found dead on sail boat in Port Townsend identified as Seattle resident. I had no idea who the man might be, who owned the sail boat, or what someone might have done to wind up dead in a sailboat, but it struck me as tragic that a person could go on a sailboat in the middle of Puget Sound and find himself dead.
For some reason, I thought about that for more time than I should have. I pushed the thought aside when my breakfast was served, turning the paper to the crossword puzzle and the comics. A stiff in a sail boat was enough tragedy for so early in the morning.
I pulled out my pen and began to work the puzzle when my waitress came back to my booth and stood over me till the silence between us became too much, and I spoke without looking up at her. “Do you need me to settle my check so you can go on break or something?
She reached across the booth and poured coffee into my cup. “No, it’s just that I don’t see many people in here who do the crossword in ink. Matter of fact, you’re the only one I can think of.” She sat the coffee pot on the edge of the table. “You must be really smart.”
That got my attention. “No, I’m not smart, I just like the challenge of getting it right the first time.”
“And what if you don’t?”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Then I just mark it out and write very tiny letters over the top of the one I screwed up.”
Without asking, she pulled the folded section of the paper toward her so she could see the crossword and my answers. “No mistakes this morning, huh?” She tapped the paper. There were no cross-outs.
“Maybe I’m just lucky this morning,” I said as I turned the page back so I could continue to work on it.
“Maybe you don’t know how lucky you are this morning,” she said as she picked up the coffee pot with one hand and let the other one lay for a lingering second and then trail across the back of my hand as she left the table.
I tried to concentrate on the crossword, but there was a much bigger puzzle walking across the diner’s black and white checkered floor toward the counter. I liked to think I had retained some of my manly charm as I rapidly approached my middle years but to have a young lady, who could not possibly be more than half my age, do what I could only describe as hit on me was something I was not used to. The worse part of the exchange was that I had a daughter that was about the same age as the waitress. With that thought in mind, I finished my breakfast, left what I was sure she would consider a very nice tip—and I hoped nothing more—picked up the paper, and headed for my office.
After twenty plus years in the army, most of it spent as a military police officer, I retired to a small community just north of Seattle. I used my MP background to qualify for a private investigator’s license and opened Maxwell Investigative Services. Occasionally, I still got a question from those old enough to remember the old television series who asked if my last name was Smart. I assured them Maxwell was my last name and let it go at that. I did a lot of skip tracing for a few lawyers and other business who still took a check. Once the business found out the paper was bad, and the person who gave it to them needed to be found, I was the one they called. Insurance fraud was another good portion of my business, and occasionally, I would get a client who wanted to get the dirt on a soon to be ex-wife or husband. Only the private investigators on television and the movies got murders, foreign spies living in your neighborhood, or the other exotic cases. That was fine with me, because in most of those, someone got shot, and it was usually the PI. I’d been shot. It was no fun, and I tried to avoid it all costs now.
My office was in a building that once housed a mom and pop pharmacy until the mega-pharmacies put them and a lot of other small ones out of business. I rented the place from their son who lived in California. He left Seattle back in the early 1980s when the economy went belly up, and there were signs on I-5 that said, “Will the last person to leave Seattle, please turn out the lights?”
The office was perfect for me. It was two rooms which I used as a waiting area and an office, a bathroom that was a part of another room that I used as a break room where I had a coffeemaker, a refrigerator, and an upstairs loft type area. I had my own apartment in town, but sometimes I was too tired, or for other reasons, I didn’t want to go home so I could spend the night on the small bed I had in the loft. If necessary, I could shave and clean up in the bathroom and begin my day all over again right here in my office.
There was a good-sized picture window in the front, and if I got up and stood in the corner, I could see the ferry dock and the snow-covered mountains of the Peninsula across the Puget Sound. That was where I usually saw Crazy George when he came to pay me a visit.
Truth be told, every city in American had someone like Crazy George. In current politically correct times, he would never be saddled with a name like that, and I was surprised that so many people around here still referred to him by that name. That was how he was introduced to me, but him being a Viet Nam veteran and my having been in Iraq and Afghanistan, we had become friends, so I had dispensed with the Crazy part, and now he was just George to me.
Several months ago, I was working on a case where the local high school guidance counsellor was found to be guiding some of the senior girls into things that were not in the school’s curriculum. He supposedly died in a diving accident but, having been diving with him on several occasions, I knew he was too good to die like it was reported. When I found out one of the local cops was probably involved in his death, I set up an elaborate scheme in my office and asked George to be a part of it. By the time the smoke cleared, in more ways than one, two police officers lay bleeding on my floor, one of whom later died, and George was pleading with me to make sure they knew he had nothing to do with the shootings.
The door to my office was in line with the door to the waiting room, so I could see anyone who came in. I had a buzzer on the door, but thanks to far too many deep dives in the army and afterward and an IED explosion in Iraq, my hearing was almost non-existent in my left ear. I sensed people in the office rather than heard them. I was sitting at my desk, checking messages, when the door opened, and George walked in.
I retired as a lieutenant colonel and, ever since we first met in a waiting room at the Seattle Veterans Hospital, he had always referred to me as colonel. “Mornin’ George. What are you up to this early in the morning?”
“Oh, you knows how it ’tis, Colonel, sometime you go to sleep, and you get too many visitors that you didn’t invite in the middle of the night.”
Like so many Viet Nam veterans, George suffered from a bad case of PTSD that neither he nor the VA could control. I stood and walked to the front. On the way, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a ten-dollar bill. “Here, I’ll buy, you fly. Go get us come coffee and a muffin or something if you want it.”
He took the money and left. I knew, and I think he did as well, that I did not expect to see any change from the purchase, and, lately, I was lucky if he even came back with coffee. I didn’t think it was intentional, but it just slipped his mind when he traveled from point A to point B and return.
I went back and listened to the three messages I had on the machine. I was still old fashioned enough to want to have an actual answering machine and not let everything go to my cell phone. I had the two numbers on my business card, but I told people if they really wanted me to know what they wanted and I didn’t answer my cell, to call and leave a message on the machine.
I had just made a note to return one of the calls when I sensed the door open again. I glanced at my watch. It was a little past nine in the morning and far too early for most of my business calls and clients. When I looked up, I saw that the person standing in my waiting room was anything but an ordinary client.
Her name was Anna, and as she told me on our first meeting, it was pronounced “Aonna” as in Madonna and not “Anna” as in banana. I met her the time I needed a dive buddy when I was checking out the death of the high school counsellor.
She was one of the most difficult women to describe I had ever met. She was stunningly beautiful, had a figure that was model quality, more class than anyone I had ever met, and an incredibly wealthy husband who, I gathered, saw none of these things. The most important and remarkable thing about her for me was that she once stood naked in front of me and asked me to make love to her.
I rose to meet her, and when I stood in front of her, I didn’t know if I should hug her or shake her hand.
She solved that problem when she rushed to me, placed her head on my shoulder, and between sobs, said, “I’m being stalked, and I’m so afraid.”
© 2018 by Paul Sinor