When Shelly Reuben was investigating arson as a private detective, she came across individuals and events that tantalized her mind and touched her heart. Add to that an indelible belief that, even if virtue does not always triumph, it will eventually manage to hobble, stumble or stride across the finish line—and you have these stories. Originally published in The Forensic Examiner and The Evening Sun.
Among the fascinating characters within the pages of Dabbling in Crime, meet:
• Dante No-Last-Name-No-Middle-Initial, a throwaway kid hiding under a music school staircase, with a damaged heart and the talent of a virtuoso violinist.
• Wealthy, beloved Jimmy Lillyjohn, burned to death on the top floor of his mansion after a lighted cigarette falls from his fingers onto his lonely mattress.
• Mountainous, mean-spirited Hilda Pomfrey, who bullies everyone in her sphere, including her tree-loving, milquetoast husband Herb.
• Police Chief Joseph Steinbeck, who reluctantly participates in a library event, and is almost murdered when he is checked out as a “Human Book.”
• Prosecutor Edward Nygh, who hides evidence of arson to convict the wrong man.
• Nygh’s reluctant assistant who travels through time to revisit her past.
Shelly Reuben's first novel, Julian Solo, was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar Award and by the Libertarian Futurist Society for a Prometheus. Her crime novel, Origin and Cause, was nominated by the Maltese Falcon Society of Japan for a Falcon; and her adult fable, The Man with the Glass Heart, was a Freedom Book Club selection. Her fiction has been published by Scribner, Harper, Harcourt, and is also available through Blackstone Audio Books.
Young people and music can create magic or heartbreak, and when they are thrown together ... sometimes both.
Dabbling in Crime
I noticed Dante behind a music stand with his bow hand hanging loosely at his right side and his violin held aloft in his left hand.
I nodded at the boy and I smiled.
His eyes, still black and still haunted, met mine. He nodded back, but he didn’t return my smile. Come to think of it, I never saw Dante smile. Then Mr. Schoenbaum tapped the music stand with the side of his baton and demanded, “From the beginning.”
This is where, as a chronicler of event, I fall down on the job, because I don’t know the name of the piece that Dante was playing. I didn’t recognize it then, and I never had the stomach to ask about it later.
Dante played for about fifteen minutes. Maybe longer. I don’t know, because I lost track of time. Less than a minute after he started, the strings of his violin became fluttering fingers, and the fingers were making rapturous love to my heart. I felt it all. The joy. The sorrow. The ecstasy. The thrill. The fear.
And the imperishable grief that loss can bring.
It wasn’t until the music stopped that I noticed Beth was sitting by my side and that our hands were latched together in a death grip. And it wasn’t until I took a handkerchief out of my pocket and wiped away Beth’s tears that I realized how moved I had been, because she then took the handkerchief out of my hand and wiped away my tears, too.
I didn’t know music could do that to a grown man. Make him cry. A man who would rather grow rhubarbs than roses and likes the gridiron better than the ballet.
All of this probably sounds corny, but I don’t care. I’m a cop. I don’t tell stories for a living; I write police reports. I investigate crimes.
Not then, though. Not that afternoon.
That day, I was on the receiving end of a gift so big, I was literally struck dumb.